Youth unemployment is high – kids today eh, Michael Wilshaw? – The Guardian

The-Guardian-logo1The Ofsted chief seems to think he can get away with blaming ‘lackadaisical’ jobless young people for their own predicament

Sir Michael Wilshaw at a nursery school

‘Sir Michael is concerned that so many young people are unemployed. Not because they’ve been excluded in the budget or ignored in the recovery, but because they can’t dress or tell the time.’ Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

It’s that time again; it comes but thrice a year – happy blame a young jobseeker day, everyone! This time, we’re celebrating the comments from the Ofsted chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who is concerned that so many young people are unemployed. Not, however, because they’ve beenexcluded in the budget or ignored in the recovery, but because they can’t dress or tell the time.

It’s been well documented that employers believe too many school-leavers “have not been taught the right skills, attitudes and behaviours” needed for the world of work. Wilshaw asked, “What does this mean?” and answered himself in the form of an ageist, baseless, in-my-day rant: “It means that they have a sloppy attitude to punctuality. It means they are far too relaxed in terms of meeting deadlines to produce work. It means that far too many young people are lackadaisical in the way they present themselves for work.” Is anyone else picturing him sitting alone on a porch, yelling all this at a cloud?

He continued: “Youth unemployment in our country is far too high, and it is in everyone’s interest to make sure that young people receive the very best education and training to improve this situation.” Let’s all applaud the suggestion that youth unemployment is a problem the young people have brought on themselves, that employers are sweating plasma trying to find a single candidate who doesn’t turn up to the interview four days late, in pyjamas, with crayons stuffed up their nose. Waitrose must have spent ages sifting through the 772 applications for 180 new positions. And managers at a new store in Merry Hill are probably still trudging throughmore than a thousand hopeful idiots applying for 30 jobs. Interesting that there should be so many applications who are, according to the Merry Hill store, of an “incredibly high” standard, and so soon after graduation.

Interesting, also, is the suggestion that the blame for youth unemployment must not only be hurled at the young people themselves, but also at their “education” – namely, teachers. When did this happen? What are you playing at, teachers? Why did you stop teaching students about punctuality and meeting deadlines the minute the economy collapsed? Explain yourselves to Ofsted this instant (even though, fascinatingly, they haven’t asked).

Is it crazy to suggest that a culture has arisen that all but destroys young people’s chances of landing even entry-level jobs? Or that a culture of unpaid or low-paid work has become the norm? Was it cynical to check Google for how much use of terms like “on-the-job training” has fallen in the last 10 years? Is it possible that employers have lost interest in providing such training, demanding school-leavers come ready-made, with skills and experience they can’t possibly have?

And now the government is talking about introducing new study programmes for 16- to 19-year-olds, to give young people “tailored education and training” and “decent work experience and preparation for employment”, is it cynical to point out that the cost of training the next generation of employees seems to have been passed from businesses to the taxpayer?

And does Ofsted really expect to get away with using the “kids today!” scoff as an actual, presentable-to-parliament reason for these embarrassingly high youth unemployment rates?

Ofsted heads these days. They don’t know they’re born.

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