Britons back work experience despite Marxist protests

Summer riots instigates nationwide work experience program that is being called modern slavery.

London riots 521 (photo credit: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)
London riots 521
(photo credit: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)
The British government has responded to the uncomfortable questions raised by last year’s rioting and looting by launching a nationwide work experience program, backed by employers of all shapes and sizes, that provides young people with the vital skills that they need to build successful, life-long careers during these difficult recession years.
The program targets unemployed men and women between 16 and 24 who are already “on the dole” and gives them the opportunity to volunteer for up to 8 weeks on work placements.  Over 30,000 young people have participated so far, with half ultimately going off government benefits.
Unfortunately, a small cabal of ultra left-wing agitators are exerting intense pressure to derail the program by way of a torrent of threats and propaganda.  A group known as Right to Work has gone so far as to allege that the program is the modern equivalent of slavery.
That’s right - companies opening their doors to give young people practical experience is apparently a crime against humanity!
Right to Work is reportedly staffed by members of the Socialist Workers Party, a Marxist revolutionary group.  Hard to imagine people like this still walking the earth, but apparently their pursuit of the inevitable collapse of capitalism still motivates them to get out of bed each morning, or late afternoon, as the case may be.
A number of smaller, regional companies have been intimidated enough by the “slave labor” campaign to withdraw from the program, afraid of any negative publicity.  Even national employers like supermarket Tesco and booksellers Waterstones have expressed concern and uncertainty.
Earlier this week, London riot police evicted the Occupy campsite that had been thrown up outside St Paul’s Cathedral.  The midnight raid came after a High Court judgment ruled the tent city illegal.  It would be unfortunate if displaced Occupy protesters and anti-capitalist campaigners succeed in derailing the work experience program and sabotaging the career development of thousands of at-risk youths.
Even at the best of “boom times”, it can be tricky for young people from disadvantaged background to get a foot on the career ladder.  Experience is vital to obtaining employment, and to prevent a lost generation of unemployable teens growing up idle in Britain, America and across much of the developed world, steps must be taken to ensure that these young men and women understand how workplaces function and what is required of them.
Once the habits of unemployment take hold, it can be very difficult to replace them with the habits of employment!
To argue that businesses are taking advantage of a work-experience program by taking on young people for unpaid two to eight week placements is shamefully short-sighted and naive.  Since they are voluntary placements, no one is compelled to participate.  Further, their unemployment benefits are not suspended while they participate.
Placements give much more value to the inexperienced teen than they do to the would-be employer.  Training programs are notoriously loss-leaders and it is difficult to see how one or more volunteer youths could displace any full-time employees.
As often happens, the shrill noise of a handful of die-hard extremists can threaten to derail a program that has wide-spread support.  Government ministers and high-profile business leaders are now entering the fray to counter the noisy campaign of marginal, out-of-touch Marxists.
Hopefully, the supporters of the work placement scheme will be successful.  In the meantime, the Socialist Workers Party and their comrades-in-arms are taking full advantage of social media, as well as the culture of liberal indulgence and excuse-making that still exists in many corners of the British Broadcasting Corporation, to greatly exaggerate their levels of popular support.  Interestingly, the left-wing daily newspaper, The Guardian, has been devoting copious column-inches to disparaging the government’s program while at the very same time operating its own unpaid internship program.
Hypocrisy is unhelpful when we face many more years of recession and stagnant growth and stubbornly high unemployment.
Interestingly, a small shop on Cecil Court, just off St Martin’s Lane in London’s West End, offers a genuine 100 trillion dollar note from Zimbabwe, issued in 2008, for a more-than-reasonable £5.  Not a bad price for a pocketsize reminder of where unrealistic monetary policies can lead!
We don’t know when this global financial crisis will end, which is why it is so important that no one be left without the skills necessary to be productive in the years to come.
Political leaders in the US, Europe and elsewhere should closely examine the British work experience program to see how it could be effectively deployed in their own countries.  Utilizing private industry and voluntary, charitable endeavors can be a cost effective means of ensuring that important life skills, such as arriving at work on time every day, with the right attire and the right attitude and the right frame of mind, are effectively passed on to at-risk youths.
At a time of shrinking government budgets and a growing consensus that austerity is the most reliable policy going forward, it will not be possible to simply “spend our way” out of joblessness.
Lives destroyed by unemployment are an unnecessary waste of human and national potential.  We cannot turn our backs on the younger generation.  They are far too important to simply be written off.
The writer is a commentator who divides his time between the United Kingdom and Southern California. He has appeared on CNN, CNBC, BBC and Sky News, and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Financial Times and The Economist.