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The world is your oyster but your future’s a clam…

June 14, 2010

The Guardian recently reported that 45% final year students (that’s nearly half for those of you who are arithmetically challenged as I am) at the UK’s top universities think that their career prospects are ‘very limited’.

One in six say they would never have gone to university If they had known how tough the job market was going to be, a statistic that suggests that as many students believe their degree is of no value in seeking employment or indeed might even put them at a disadvantage.

And if they do find work they expect to earn less than previous graduates, even as they leave university owing more – on average £17, 900, up from 15,700 in 2009 and £11,600 in 2008.

Meanwhile, David Willetts, the universities minister, says: “The jobs market continues to be very tough for young people, who were among the biggest losers during the recession. We are committed to doing all we can to make it easier for them to find work and realise their ambitions.”

Well, Willetts and his amigos would need to do something quickly, for as David Blanchflower points out, about 40% of the current unemployed are under 25 and the consequences of this will be dire. As Blanchflower explains:

Unemployment hurts. Unemployment has undeniably adverse effects on those unfortunate enough to experience it. A range of evidence indicates that unemployment tends to be associated with malnutrition, illness, mental stress, depression, increases in the suicide rate, poor physical health in later life and reductions in life expectancy. However, there is also a wider social aspect. Many studies find a strong relationship between crime rates and unemployment, particularly for property crime. Sustained unemployment while young is especially damaging. By preventing labour market entrants from gaining a foothold in employment, sustained youth unemployment may reduce their productivity. Those that suffer youth unemployment tend to have lower incomes and poorer labour market experiences in later life. Unemployment while young creates permanent scars rather than temporary blemishes.

Along with job creation, Blanchflower recommends that the government look to encourage young people to see education as an alternative to unemployment. But cuts in higher education will mean that 250,000 young people are going to miss out on a place this year.

And there is more bad news for prospective students. The TUC claims that one in three graduate interns works for nothing. One of the consequences of this is that only young people who have parents who can support them can afford internships.

It’s going to be shit being young, so if it’s any consolation here’s The Jam

You’re fearless and brave – you can’t be stopped when you’re young
You swear you’re never ever gonna work for someone
No corporations for the new age sons
Tears of rage roll down your face
But still you say “it’s fun”

Finally: Here’s a great opportunity for any go-getting postdoctoral young blade out there. It’s at the University of Sussex in its School of Media, Film and Music. It ‘seeks to appoint a 0.1 post-doctoral Research Fellow to play a key role within the Centre for Material Digital Cultures, contributing a substantial personal research portfolio, establishing research and knowledge transfer links with digital media industries, and playing an important role in the preparation of research grant applications. The post-holder will also be expected to provide doctoral supervision where appropriate. You should have a PhD in a relevant area, the ability to make significant independent contribution to the design and execution of research, and close knowledge of digital media industries and their working practices.’

That’s right a 0.1 FTE post. What does that work out as? Half a day a week! Never mind McJobs, this is the first McNugget Job.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. wartimehousewife permalink
    June 14, 2010 7:28 pm

    Jesus. I think I’m going to put my two boys on The Game now, to save them from pain and despondency of the job market later. At least it’s a steady job. And they might even end up running their own firm.

  2. June 15, 2010 9:20 am

    Hi Wartime,
    I’ve two wee boys at home – 3 and 7. I think they’re going to be gangsters. I hope so anyway. I don’t think I could bear the shame if they became bankers or insurance brokers or something like that. Anyway, I’ve noticed that no matter how bad things get, crime continues to pay, like capitalism’s dark Other.

    • June 16, 2010 1:32 am

      Hey Rab – suffering from insomnia tonight and look where I’ve ended up! At your bloody site! Argggh!

      Anyway – aren’t gangsters and bankers one and the same these days?

      Also, you know that sussex job? One hour a week eh? Funny that because according to some, that’s all the work I do these days.

  3. Phil Ramsey permalink
    June 15, 2010 10:04 am

    Great to see you mentioned the Sussex job… I’m still struggling to believe that it’s actually true!

  4. Dr. Disco permalink
    June 16, 2010 9:21 am

    Probably the people responsible for this

    http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=45540&c=1

    and this

    http://blogs.pressgazette.co.uk/axegrinder/2010/06/15/gjhgkjhchkjhvbkjmore-gibberish-this-time-from-the-daily-mail/

    also have limited career prospects. I just thought I would share that with you.

  5. Affer permalink
    June 16, 2010 4:32 pm

    I thought about all this really hard. There is some truth in it….BUT: one of our national characteristics is that we always have to blame someone. Just never ourselves. So for example: the Credit Crunch was ALL the fault of bankers, and not at all the fault of those who a) paid over the odds for properties, and b) funded them with mortgages they just knew they could never pay back!

    Similarly with jobs: the absence of jobs is either a) the fault of ‘business’ for not creating them, or b) the fault of the Government for not funding them, or c) the fault of the Universities. Now I do happen to believe that all the above share some of the blame. But not all.

    I meet some hundreds of undergrads each year (and post-grads) who are on courses because they are easy. Universities (and the Government) are certainly complicit in that, but surely Rule 1 must be to protect yourself? And some simple empirical research would show that there AREN’T 10,000 jobs in Meeja with Boil-in-a-Bag Food Science available….or 25,000 jobs in Fashion Sewing with Photographic Manipulation.

    Year after year, there are vacancies on Science courses – but they are hard, and undersubscribed. Languages allow people to travel – but few want to do them, so the courses founder. Meanwhile, the crap courses grow because people WILL keep enrolling on them!

    I loathe State interference with academe, but truth to tell, if the Unis can’t be trusted to trim courses to match need (they teach Supply and Demand….just don’t practice it!), the soonere or later it has to be legislated. What we CAN’T do is leave it to the Student body; too many of them just want the easy option! And, in my view, nobody has a RIGHT to have a job in the field of their choice, any more than we have a RIGHT to be paid for doing nowt!

  6. Rabelais permalink*
    June 17, 2010 8:57 am

    Hello Affer.

    I don’t think we can blame individuals on unemployment. What I mean is, the number out of work has not leapt to (what is it?) 2.5 million in recent years because there was a sudden outbreak of laziness. The reasons are economic and the power to turn this around lies with government. Individuals can only do so much but as Humphrey Bogart once said, they don’t amount to a hill of beans. So hear ministers giving off about ‘feckless spongers’ (or whatever name the undeserving poor go under these days) is really pretty despicable. The government’s biggest problem is not that there are people on the dole who don’t want to work, it’s that there are currently massive amounts of people jobless who do.

    I agree with you about the proliferation of useless, vocational degrees for which there is no vocation at the end of them. Media Studies is guilty here. One in five media studies students get work in the media. Apparently that compares very well with other disciplines. (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from that.)

    But I would defend the idea of media studies. It used to be concerned with investigating the impact of modern communications on social, cultural and democratic life, but since the commercialisation of HE it has rebranded itself as a vocational qualification in the unseemly race to attract students, all of whom are hopeful of bagging a career meeja.

    Change is coming. I regret to say that I think the experiment with mass higher education has failed (I don’t think it stood a chance under the terms it was implemented). If Lord Browne raises the cap on university fees it will only be a matter of time before we have a two (or even three) tier higher education system, with elite institutions for the rich and polytechnics in all but name for the not so rich.

    What would I prefer? Well since your asking: I would now accept that a university education is probably a bit of a ‘minority sport’. I teach too many disinterested young people who think that higher education is an extension of school to believe that everybody has either the aptitude or passion for the sort independent learning, research and inquiry that university should be about. But I don’t think entry to it should depend upon wealth but ability. I’d like to see the government invest more in adult education because many people have neither aptitude or desire for HE when they are 18 but that is not to say that they wouldn’t enjoy and benefit from it later in life. I was a mature student in the days when there were grants and incentives for adult learners and I benefited enormously from that. Had I gone to university when I was 18, it would have been utterly lost on me.

    At the moment we have a system that herds young people to HE waters and then berates their lecturers when they refuse to drink.

    • Affer permalink
      June 18, 2010 1:17 pm

      Good response! Actually, there’s not much between us at all. I don’t want to see Media Studies canned….nor Beach Management, Equine Grooming and Endurance Knitting. I just want to see some balance. I absolutely agree that, even though more people than ever are going to Uni, it is drifting towards being a wealth-based sport – if only because the rich are better able to underwrite the substantial debts young folk have accrued when they leave. That isn’t at all a good thing – and isn’t going to get better until we return to a PROPER grants system. (On another tack, I should like to have your comments on the academic application of those living at home and those living away…..).

      I too took my degree late in life – I was 56 when I took a Master’s; I thought it was easy! And I draw from that an implication that experience is its own form of learning. On that basis, I would like to see less emphasis placed on ”you MUST go to Uni, young man/lady” – but only if there is a PROPER alternative training or study route available. Many of our young can do quite well without ‘badge’ education…

      As to creating employment, well, for a generation to come, we are Donald-Ducked. BUT: insufficient support is given at Unis – financially and educationally – to encouraging a new generation of entrepreneurs. Note: I said ‘at’, not ‘by’. That means other institutions and organisations taking a fuller part in the educational process.

  7. judithgunn permalink
    June 17, 2010 5:37 pm

    Meanwhile – back at the ranch – we’ve got one at uni and one heading to uni – we just have to hope that not only is learning worthwhile in itself – but that it’s worth paying for!

  8. Rabelais permalink*
    June 19, 2010 8:14 am

    Hello Judith and Affer,

    Affer, your right. There’s not much difference between our positions, only that we reach there from different directions, perhaps.

    Judith, when I’m not fretting about education here I’m worrying about my two wee lads. They’re well off university age at the moment – just 3 years old and 7. It’s funny though, I don’t think my parents were so anxious about my education and I wonder is it partly our anxiety about education that makes it such a potentially unpleasant experience?

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