Turning conventional thinking on its head
This morning I was at the Local Government Conference chaired by Cllr Stephen Alambritis who is Leader of the Council at London Borough of Merton. One of the most interesting speakers was David Frost CBE who is the new Chair of the National LEP (Local Enterprise Partnerships) Network. I learned some very interesting facts. Did you know that our population is growing by around half a million a year? Or, that the 27 miles that makes up the M6 toll road was 21 years in the making – 18 years in the planning system and 3 years in the build? Just a few of the things that local and central government are grappling with in terms of planning, housing, education and employment.
I asked him what he thought local government, and indeed central government should be doing to address youth unemployment given that the figure has now risen to more than a million. And, what role Local Enterprise Partnerships have in ensuring that all of that potential is not lost. He agreed that indeed this is now a huge issue and something huge needs to happen to address it. He also feels that educational institutions are a long way from reflecting the skills needs of local employers and this must be tackled. From the audience we had an example of a brand new college costing millions being built but the biggest employer in the area wasn’t consulted about their skills needs, never mind the SMEs!
Interestingly, David Frost said that we really need to turn our thinking about benefits on its head. No young person should get ‘benefits’ where possible. Instead, the money should be paid to employers as grants so that they can create employment opportunities for the young people but this would need to be supported by some changes in National Insurance. He also advocated the creation of a national force working on a national community programme: “we all see things in our communities that need doing” he said. He did not however, confine this to the young. I think his ideas are really worth thinking about and I like the idea itself of turning conventional thinking and current expectations on their heads and coming up with innovative responses to a very serious problem indeed. If systems and rules get in the way, then change the systems and rules. I’ll buy that. In fact I’m giving it some serious thought!
Organisations like vinspired will do what we can to build the skills of the young for work, develop their enterprise potential, broaden their horizons, expand their social capital and keep them optimistic and hopeful. But, I can’t help but feel that David Frost is right and this huge problem requires a huge and unified response. We cannot afford as a nation to have a generation of young people who feel hope-less.