I started this blog a few days after being made redundant. Living in Leeds and finding that even having a broad geographical area I’d be willing to commute to didn’t help in securing work (down to Nottingham, up to Newcastle, and anwhere between Hull and Manchester across the country) despite being a highly qualified and experienced lawyer was something of a shock.
I was lucky enough, before the redundancy settlement ran out, to find a London-based employer and project which allowed me to work remotely from Leeds for 7 months. Now I just need to secure something for 2012. A permanent job that allows me to live at home and see my wife and son daily is probably a couple of years into the distance.
Sadly, things seem to be much worse for younger people. The immediate impact of youth unemployment is different to that for older people. They at least, largely have the option of staying with their parents and throwing their search out wide, considering volunteering abroad, travelling, further study and so on. With a family and a mortgage, plus having to overcome a degree of feeling entitled to have a life that wasn’t such a struggle after years of work and “doing the right thing” in studying and achieving highly the pressures of getting used to the idea of living away from what you have spent years building in terms of family life or even losing them as you are forced into working out a completely different lifestyle are hard.
But, at least I was lucky enough to be reasonably confident of finding work when I graduated without needing to to do substantial amounts of networking and unpaid work experience. My qualifications were sufficient in themselves to get my foot in the door and there were opportunities for those who had not spent as much time in education – school friends who had left education at 16 had managed to get careers, homes, cars and families while I was still flat sharing in my mid twenties. Today’s equivalents would all be burdened with student debt or in insecure unskilled employment as there wasn’t much else available for those who hadn’t stayed on at school and university.
Perhaps things might be turning round to give opportunities to those who do not wish to stay in full time education past childhood. It is unfortunate that for branding purposes it is seen as necessary to describe decent apprenticeships as “graduate level” but at least there is starting to be a choice again rather than an ineluctable conveyor belt leading to degrees that are neither useful nor valuable. That doesn’t mean that elitism should be a dirty word – the opposite in fact, if there are proper opportunities for ordinary people we ought to be able to be comfortable about providing opportunities for those who are talented rather than trying to level everyone down.
With some luck things will be rosier in 13 years time when OMB finishes school.