The London Evening Standard has shocked Graduate Fog by publishing an article which implies that youth unemployment is the fault of young people, not the government (which many of you feel has robbed you of your future) — or private companies (which you say have either stopped recruiting or are abusing your desperation for experience by ‘hiring’ you to work as an unpaid intern).

The piece — written by Sascha Olofson and published yesterday (Thursday 10 March 2011) in the ES Jobs section — is entitled ‘From zero to hero with a little help’.

(So jobless young people are a ‘zero’?)

On the surface it appears to be offering helpful tips for unemployed youngsters. But Graduate Fog detects and unpleasant subtext which suggests that it is your fault that you don’t have a job.

Am I imagining it? Decide for yourself. Here is an excerpt:

The young unemployed have had a bad press. One in five of Generation Zero, the 18-24-year-old age group, who is not in education or training, is out of work. Even those who are learning skills are often studying worthless qualifications according to a new report — with as many as 400,000 students a year, roughly a third, on dead-end courses which will add little or nothing to their future careers.

And when they do find work, they are “work-shy” according to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who recently accused young people of being “embarrassingly wet” and “reliant on their mums to make excuses for them.”

These words triggered an instant survey via YouGov which found that 62 per cent of the nation agrees with him that “young people in Britain today are not prepared to work hard.”

So what are the options for young people looking for work, if they want to avoid being labelled as lazy?

That’s the intro. Where is the mention of the government’s failure to encourage businesses to take on staff or to enforce the National Minimum Wage when it comes to internships? Or of big business’s willingness to use young people for free labour in the form of unpaid internships, when they can well afford to pay you? Or of universities for conning you out of tens of thousands of pounds for these apparently “worthless qualifications.” Or of your schools, for encouraging you to sign up for these degree courses, which turn out to have little value on the job market?

The remainder of the one-page feature is a list of ways for young people to improve their CVs and keep off the dole. Crucially, none of these supposedly helpful suggestions includes any brainwaves on how to get an actual job that pays the National Minimum Wage or above.

Graduate Fog can see no way in which any of these ideas are realistic options for most struggling youngsters with – or without – a degree.

Instead, the list includes:

Learning a skill

(Wow, what a brilliant idea! Especially if you’ve just spent £27,000 on your university degree. Why not spend more money learning how to be a plumber, or something similarly ‘useful’?)


(Most of which are unpaid, as we know)


(Which are open only to non-graduates and pay a measly £2.50 an hour, a sum nobody can live on)

Creating your own job

(By setting up your own business which makes money from Day One — unrealistic for most youngsters)


(Genius! Yet another way to ‘gain experience’ — ie work unpaid — so that you can join the scrum to apply for the handful of paid graduate jobs that exist in your sector)

Graduate Fog finds the paragraph on internships particularly offensive — and not just because the Standard’s lazy journalist has used someone from the controversial ‘recruitment’ specialists Inspiring Interns as her expert source.

(Did she know that this nasty little company works by charging clients £500 a month for employing one of their interns, while the intern themselves takes home less than the National Minimum Wage? Don’t believe me? This is the same company that joked that interns should ‘eat roadkill’ to save cash for unpaid placements.)

The section on internships reads:

Internships are not just a way for employers to get cheap — or even free — labour.

Is that supposed to be funny? Does Olofson know that unpaid internships are enormously controversial? She should do — the Evening Standard has run enough news stories about this lately.

The valuable work skills learned through on-the-job experience can lead to a lucrative career. Sarah Burton, who is rumoured to have been chosen as the designer of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, started out as an intern with Alexander McQueen.

Well if one posh girl can become a dress designer to our future queen through doing an unpaid internship, they must be a good thing, right? Wrong. What Olofson neglects to mention is that Burton is now 36, which means she probably did her internship at least 10 years ago. If it was paid, I very much doubt that a similar role would be paid now. And if Burton wasn’t paid, how did she manage to make it work? I strongly suspect she had financial support from her family. Working unpaid for a long stretch of time simply isn’t an option for most young people. It never was — and it certainly isn’t now.

Andrew Scherer, of, says: “Out of the 750 graduates we have placed over the last two years in a cross-section of industries, 70 per cent led to a full-time job by making themselves indispensable.”

Sorry, I just had to go and be sick there. I think it’s the way that Scherer presents Inspiring Interns as part of the solution to youth unemployment, when in my opinion they are part of the problem. Okay, lots of your interns go on to get paid jobs at the end of their placements. But how much were those hard-working interns paid during those placements, Andrew? And how much did your company, Inspiring Interns, receive for doing the exhausting (?) job of matchmaking the employer and the intern? Isn’t it true that most of your interns receive around £200 a month for their work, while your company gets £500? (Remind me – what is this fee for, exactly?) The point is that because your internships pay so little, this effectively means they are only open to those youngsters whose parents can support them financially, so poorer young people are unfairly excluded.

As well as causing my blood pressure to soar, this kind of piece really worries me. Why? Because I think it feeds the idea that young people somehow deserve to be unemployed, because you’re all useless.

You don’t deserve to be unemployed — and you’re not useless. That the government, private companies, universities — and now the media — are showing signs of turning against you when all you’ve done is follow the advice you were given (“Go to uni — you’ll get a good job”) is truly sickening.

*Is the media turning against unemployed youngsters?
Do you feel it’s fair that you are being blamed for being jobless? Or should others step up and take responsibility for landing you in it? Do you feel your degree was a con – and who do you blame for the dire situation so many graduates are in today?

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