17 Sep 2012

C4 Class of 2012: The 'one million' challenge

It is painful even to write it – one million young people unemployed. One million 16- to 24-year-olds are unable to find a job.

For forty years I have been involved with a project in central London working with vulnerable and homeless young people in that age bracket. I worked at the New Horizon Youth Centre for three years before I became a journalist. In these four decades we have never known anything like it.

Our centre is attracting more and more educated young people – more and more employable young people with fewer problems than those we normally see, who have many additional difficulties. Increasingly, employment is the single issue that brings young people to our door.

Following this “can-do” season of the Olympics and Paralympics – each of which generated a brief spike in youth job opportunities (mainly filled by students in their long vacation) – there is an even bigger challenge on the block. It’s a challenge bigger even than the Olympics themselves: It is the battle to address and retrieve what some have casually tagged the “lost generation”.

Channel 4, via its Battlefront youth campaigners, has been tackling this issue for some time; and this Wednesday, 19 September, it will host a big event aiming to raise the profile of youth unemployment. Economics Editor Faisal Islam and I are chairing the C4 Class of 2012 event, to be held at Channel 4 HQ, involving young people and a panel of influential voices – David Miliband and the CEO of Sainsbury’s, Justin King, are two of the panellists.

It’s a theme we on Channel 4 News are going to give special emphasis to as well, this week and beyond. It concerns me as a father, a bit-part charity activist, and as a journalist.

If you want to put a question to the panel on Wednesday, you can do so by tweeting @channel4news using the hashtag #c4classof2012 or emailing c4jobs@itn.co.uk.

Together we built Olympic/Paralympic glory. Together we need to challenge the reality of the “lost generation” and find lasting solutions.

Follow @jonsnowc4 on Twitter.

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25 reader comments

  1. Rick says:

    Hi Jon,

    I know I keep bleating on about this on different message forums, but I haven’t changed my mind about what needs to happen. There needs to be a fundamental realignment of the way we live. For example, why is one person working, say, 60 hours per week while somebody else is on the dole. Two people could work 30 hours each. Work sharing has to have some merit in this ‘brave new world’. Wages and prices will have to adjust accordingly. The constant striving for ‘growth’ is nothing more than a capitalist ploy for more and more profit. Pensions should be based on final 3 years salary pitched at around 80%. All private pension schemes should be nationalized and one pension paid to each and every individual reaching the age of 65 with a maximum and a minimum.
    There should be one British Bank with branches in every town and village thereby eliminating competition in banking which has brought the world to this sorry state. At the same time other money lending schemes will be abolished.
    The land must be taken into public ownership and house owners should pay a ground rent. Land ownership must become a thing of the past. There must be a new rent act capping rents at prices people can afford and eliminating competition.
    The following must be returned to public ownership: gas, electricity, water, public transport and anything else that was stolen from the people by previous governments.
    Preventative medicine must become the norm free at the point of use, including dentistry.
    That will do for starters, Jon.



    p.s. How about an interview with Jacque Fresco on Channel 4.

  2. Andy says:

    This lost generation view worries me.

    Although there are opportunities (jobs) there are neither the numbers needed to make a significant impact nor a sufficient amount to create the economic stimulus that, will in turn, generate more.

    The solution to stopping the lost generation, at these times of financial crisis, can be found in part within the ‘Olympic spirit’ by creating opportunities within organizations, businesses and through the voluntary sector.

    Creating opportunities in exchange for benefit payments which match hours worked to these payments putting an end to the concerns of those who wrongly claim exploitation, while at the same time maintaining all current employee protections.

    Undertaking paid work, maintaining and or creating employment skills with the benefit system used as a step onto the working ladder more than a place to be trapped and lost.

    The unions, whose every concern can be dismissed if the system is created properly, will probably be against it and I suspect that many will prefer the benefit for nothing handout but until the financial crisis is over or sufficient recovery is made this is one solution would, in part, resolve the feeling of being ‘lost’.

  3. Philip Edwards says:



    London has suffered least of all during ultra right Tory-instigated class warfare of the last thirty odd years.

    The very worst affects are outside that city. Whole communities, cities and regions were attacked and impoverished, all of it aided by mainstream media based in London.

    Yet you and C4 choose London for such an event! Instead of staging a typical media circus you could have held a series in the worst affected cities and then held the final one in Corruption City if you really wanted to be taken seriously. And why so late? Just because it is finally beginning to bite at your London behind and make you uncomfortable?

    It might be better late than never but don’t be surprised if it has the feel of crocodile tears after a generation of this immorality and outright corruption..

    As I said: incredible. But par for the mainstream media course.

  4. Anthony Woodlock says:

    Does the 1 million figure include Scotland

  5. les says:

    Mr Snow – you do realise and should acknowledge that there were 952,000 youth unemployed before Labour left office in 2010.

    Thank you.

    1. Adrian Oldfield says:

      And remember the Labour Government love to hide young people on government funded schemes, the figure you see today is a true and adjusted figure, the real problem cannot be hidden

  6. e says:

    I would wholeheartedly agree that youth unemployment should take precedence. However debates on unemployment that concentrate on youth alone always seem to allow policy makers to rest comfortably within the cul-de-sac of today’s educational standards and faults with today’s young which individuals of the 1950s apparently didn’t suffer. This is nonsense, yet effective – aren’t we all susceptible to being told we’re not quite good enough – perhaps not the Eton types who have that something for nothing in the bank to fall back on.

    “unempyoability” is not a cause it’s a manufactured excuse to deflect blame for the abandonment of full employment policies.

  7. Dan McLellan says:

    BA + MSc + MSc … VS … 12 months experience + 3-day course.

    So many employers seem closed to offering entry positions or chances to gain experience, even to graduates! Of course some advertise “Graduate” positions but ridiculously many still ask for 12 or 18 months experience?! How? Unpaid internships? Who can afford 18 months unpaid. Its catch-22 – need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience. I’ve even offered to work for free!

    Straight from school I earned a bachelors and two master degrees tailored towards urban development and sustainability but despite this comprehensive (often pioneering) knowledge of the field amassed over 6 years, I cannot get a job in urban development nor sustainability. But if I had a BREEAM qualification which takes three days and £1700 (not 6 years) I could probably walk into a job a good but employers are not willing to acknowledge my wealth of academic experience in the field and fund the three-day course. How can you compare 6 years with 3 days!!!

    While I try to raise the money to fund the course myself I try to get ‘low-end’ jobs – however I am “over qualified”. I’ve even considered taking a couple or all of my degrees off my CV – but then how do I explain the 6 year gap!

    In the meantime I am applying to PhD positions in Sweden. When did it become easier for someone to get on a PhD programme over getting bar work?! This is crazy!

    Thank you C4 for raising these issues to a broader audience!

  8. Ava Patel says:

    Hi, Ava here. As a Battlefront campaigner and young person who has suffered the effects of unemployment, I am really looking forward to this event. The four of us have been working on the Campaign to Combat Youth Unemployment and want to dispel the myth that young people are job-shy and lazy. We are all looking forward to Wednesday.

  9. Saltaire Sam says:

    Great idea, Jon. When I left school at 18, I had the choice of three jobs in my chosen trade. I left school on Thursday and started work the following Monday.

    Companies were less obsessed with short-term profits in those days – they realised that they couldn’t grow by 20 per cent every years. They seemed keen to take on youngsters and give them the chance to learn how to do a job

    Interestingly, they also looked on sacking people as a sign of management failure – these days, ‘downsizing’ is the first thing on the agenda if the bosses’ bonuses are under threat.

  10. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Why did we let so many inmmigrants into the country? We do not operate as in the miracle ‘Feeding the five thousand’
    Can we make it better for more people to be employed when cutbacks and sacking are continually on the rise?
    Can we actually afford to house our unemployed children at home, when the most skilled and qualified and experienced older professionals cannot get jobs?
    When women are having more than 5 children, is the future situation going to improve?
    Sorry friends our Island is sinking. Lets talk about bare breasts as a diversion.

  11. Moonbeach says:

    The Poles and other East Europeans don’t seem to be ‘lost’! Perhaps Channel 4 can study how they do it and pass the information on to our ‘lost generation’.

    I heard a young woman on TV the other night bemoaning the fact that she had a First Class Honours degree and couldn’t find a job that met her expectations! Doubless she studied some useless subject at a mediocre ex-Poly and was promised the earth by her tutors.

    There are jobs there for those that wish to work. Unfortunately too many cannot communicate, are almost innumerate and have the work ethics of sloths.

    I write this to balance the left wing claptrap above. Only Sam and Margaret seem to have any idea that we are dealing with Human Beings; although Sam conveniently has forgotten the power that the Union Barons wielded to cripple UK businesses.

    1. Saltaire Sam says:

      I notice that while the unions were crippling UK business, the wages of the bosses have soared in comparison to what is being earned by the workers.

      It’s all part of what has happened in the 50 years since I started work. Back then those who created or ran businesses earned more than those who just worked in them, but the gap wasn’t nearly as big is it is now, and people were much more willing to give youngsters a chance.

  12. Rick says:

    If we could develop a more socialistic order of society, then everybody would be working and contributing to the welfare of all.

    Moonstruck, your last sentence is nonsense. There was little, if any, actual Trade Union ‘power’. It was in the imagination of the right-wing media that portrayed them as such. If you are referring to the 1970s, we were light years behind other European countries in wages and working conditions so it’s little wonder there was trouble. Of course, with hindsight the Unions should have used more common sense, but we could debate that forever. Today it is the craze for competition that is crippling everything and, believe me, competition does not keep prices down as we have all learned to our horrendous costs.

    1. Moonbeach says:

      Which Planet do you inhabit? First, I have not a clue what you mean by ‘socialistic order of society’ but it would doubtless ignore the ubiquitous human competetive instinct. You probably don’t want to keep up with the Jones’s. But I do and there are millions like me around the world.

      Thus as I said before, hankering after the impossible is lunacy. It will never happen.

      Secondly, tell the members of the coal, iron and steel industries that the militants had no power. Tell it to British Leyland employees who were sacrificed in Red Robbo’s crusade.

      Then look at the winter of discontent and blame it on everyone but the TUC. They were not interested in the well being of their members. They wanted socialist revolution. It was only their power to destroy our industries and nation that led to beer and fags at number 10!

      There was lots of poor management about as there still is. But the Unions would have been much more effective if they had used their influence to make businesses more competetive.

  13. Myles Warwood says:

    Hi Battlefront campaigner Myles here,
    I thought university would be the best thing for me to get employed after graduating with my 2:1 I found that was not the case, 40+ job applications later, living back at home utterly demoralised believing I was completely unemployable Battlefront handed me one hell of a lifeline.
    I’m really looking forward to tomorrow to address the issue of youth unemployment and I know me and my other three campaigners are extremely eager to get young peoples voices heard on the issue.
    We look forward to tomorrow.

  14. Rick says:

    Moon, if you still want to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ you have either failed or you weren’t there in the 1970s. And if you were then the Daily Mail and Daily Express were probably your staple reading diet.

    “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” – Albert Einstein. And I think that could be aimed at you, my friend!

    Please explain the benefits of competition. How has competitiveness enabled anyone to become Mr. Jones without undermining somebody else. Competition is for sport and other similar activities. Competition in a capitalist environment only leads to the destruction of the loser.

    ‘Hankering after the impossible’, as you put it, is trying, little by little, to make the world a better place. The dog eat dog competitive bullying which you seem to be advocating merely holds back progress!

  15. Lynn says:

    The 70’s were awful, they bred a generation of frustrated angry youth who’d been drip fed a diet of “No! No! No!” What is most worrying is that the Tories have looked back into the past and are still recreating exactly the same scenario – an absence of creative outlets.

    1. Adrian Oldfield says:


      The Tories have looked back to an age where work was expected, it was not acceptable to choose a lifestyle choice of benefits. The education system set up by labour has created a lost generation of non competitive kids who expect a free ride when they under-achieve

  16. Tracey Abbott says:

    Many members of EFD are really keen to engage with the 16-25 year olds. We are trying to create pilots to show employers how straight forward this can be. Often the government agencies way of funding causes problems, big business really isnt interested in the small training grants; if they employee these candidates thewill train them regardless.
    Better bonds between HE and FE and business is needed. I have heard far to many unis say that they arent there to ready students for work. Hmmmm

  17. adrian clarke says:

    I find it strange, that Socialists and many others believe jobs can be just created to employ every young person.Jobs have to be needed and available.Also youngsters need to realise that they can’t start work on £20,000-£30,00,and anything less is beneath them.Work has to be earned and continuing work and progression has to be learn’t.Walking out of school with good results or UNI with a degree does not guarantee either work or a large income.The state relies on other peoples taxes to be able to employ someone.It can give help and incentive to firms to employ youngsters,but those same youngsters need to know it is a competitive world, not a nanny state, that Labour has tried to encourage for thirteen years.If anyone believes taking money from the rich to give to those poorer,will provide a long term solution,perhaps they should move to N.Korea, not China or Russia,because they realise the Socialist dream does not work.
    There is one thing that governments could do and that is to say employment goes to British nationals before Immigrants,but they have to work as hard

  18. Tom says:

    The UK graduate job market not providing you the job opportunities you want – why not look at growing markets? China is one example – they are crying out for English teachers. As this is the business I am in I can tell you that there are good job prospects for young graduates!

  19. Mack says:

    From what I hear on a yearly basis, 30 years or more) is that this year the poor soles leaving school or uni or college can’t get jobs etc etc etc. I think that they all seem to expect everything to be laid out for them. This is more evident in the ones with a degree in whatever who can not seem to understand that they have nothing to give apart from the fact that they like being in school and have no idea of the real world. Most of them could probably work out the volume of a door but struggle to actually open it, sad but true. I think like all the rest of the workers out there that it is down to perseverance and remember just because you have a degree does not make you special in any way.
    Mind you the armed forces is always an option for them.

  20. Rebecca Power says:

    I had to write to say how I listened with utter incredulity as David Milliband spouted on about apprenticeships tonight! This was rich, coming from a member of a government which all but eliminated such routes to a worthwhile working life, and created in their place worthless degrees, which they encouraged so many young people to pursue!?! I have bemoaned the education and training system in this country for so many years… I am 53 years old and after some experience working in [re]insurance in the City of London, now work as a freelance translator. I was always an academic, working hard at school and achieving good exam results. However, I come from a very working class background (thank goodness for grammar schools!) and when offered the option of a 3-year university course (albeit with, in those days, not only free tuition but also a maintenance grant!) to obtain a modern languages degree or a 2-year college course to obtain a degree-equivalent qualification, I chose the latter: my reason was twofold, firstly, I wished to start earning money as soon as possible and secondly, I really did not need to waste my time on a timetable offering so few lessons in a week, compared to the (more appropriate) 9-5 offering at the college! Given that it is now so expensive to go to university, perhaps we might see more universities/colleges offering a similar option?! When I was in my 20s, I went to live in Germany for a while: what a difference in attitude there! They actually have proper courses/apprenticeships for youngsters to become MASTER plumbers, MASTER electricians etc. and such people are RESPECTED!

    I now have a 16-year old son, who unlike me is not at all academic, but he managed to obtain a respectable 6 GCSEs this year. I have brought him up in full recognition and ACCEPTANCE of his nature, but I have always ENSURED that he can communicate well and add up! He was in actual fact lucky in terms of his primary education, but had it been at the sort of level that has been the norm over the last 13 years of the Labour government, I would have naturally put in more effort personally. Indeed, if I did not suffer from a disability, I would love to work with youth on a volunteer basis… Since my son is unfortunately not destined to do work “with his hands” (shame, one can earn a very good wage as a builder, plumber etc!), we have naturally thought about his options. Now, when I worked in the City all those years ago, there were VERY MANY young people who came straight out of school at either 16 or 18 years of age and into a job in [re]insurance as trainees, and to be quite honest, they ended up earning the same as any graduate who joined later! This means that I do not IN ANY WAY believe that higher education is a must or a given, especially when it does not lead to any worthwhile career and will cost the student nearly 30 grand! My son is absolutely mad about golf and if he is not good enough to be a professional, might be a professional coach – failing that, I am sure he will make a good salesman and/or work in a position where he deals with people, as that is his forte. To give him a chance, I am funding him to go to a college to do a 2-year Sports BTEC with focus on golf. The tuition is free, but I have to pay about £3,500 a year for accommodation and food. I have made it clear to him that if, after that, he needs to go to university or college (e.g. to obtain the coaching qualification), he will need to do it on a part-time basis, working the rest of the time. I believe that paying £7,000 now to find out if this is really going to be his life’s work is better than paying £27,000 on a degree which will not in any way help him to get a decent job! In short, I believe that it is going to take a long time to rectify all the mistakes which Labour made over the last few years, and a certain level of realism really does have to be introduced in terms of [re]training young people to offer the skills that employers want/need (i.e. being able to talk properly and add up, rather than having a degree in “media studies”!), enlightening such young people as to what they have to do in order to get these jobs (and yes, even in my day, we were confronted with the Catch 22 of needing experience but not being given the opportunity to get that experience – nothing new!) and in facing up to today’s difficult economic climate, where people in other countries are much more willing to do the jobs our young people feel are beneath them!

  21. Adrian Oldfield says:


    There are many variables that have an impact on the employability of our young people. The advancement of the welfare state (this includes EMA), has created a “something for nothing” society. The lack of a structured route into work for those struggling with academia, compounded by the withdrawal of work experience offered at year 10, and the closing of connexions in some parts of the country is scandalous.

    Young people who do get offered an apprenticeship are often paid £2.60 per hour when at 16-18 the national min wage is £3.48, how can they feel good about a framework that classes them as worthless to their non apprentice peers?

    I would like to see Grammar Schools return for the high flyers, average graders should be driven to acceptable HE and FE courses that Employers will value and for those who struggle with school and vocational route from year 10 that will see them leave school at 16 with a guaranteed apprenticeship or if there are behavioural problems a state sponsored community programme.

    But most of all I would like to see the wage for non apprentices dropped to £2.60 an hour and the wage for aprentices raised to at least £3.48, after all, we all go to work to earn a crust, and a fair days pay for a fair days work is only right!

    It’s not rocket science!!

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