THIS rumbling row about work experience is providing all sorts of employment opportunities for commentators, pundits and pressure groups of all shades of opinion even as the people the schemes are supposed to help scratch their heads and wonder whether they’re being offered a chance to get a foot in the door or being cruelly exploited by a wicked capitalist system.
I’ve got news for them – it’s both.
The latest high-profile figure to weigh in with his six pennyworth plus share options is one-time Marks & Sparks boss Sir Stuart Rose.
He reckons that big firms backing away from the government’s work experience drive because the storm being kicked up by lefty protestors might be bad for their image should show a bit of backbone and tell the Trots where to get off.
Sir Stuar, who we are always told started out shelf-stacking and sweeping floors 40 years ago, said it was ‘baffling’ that anyone would complain about unemployed youngsters being given a chance.
The scheme offers youngsters on jobless benefits for work experience placements of up to eight weeks. More than half the people who have taken part so far have come off benefits as a result.
Hang on, says a vociferous campaign group called Right To Work, and I would love to have a leaf through the CVs of the ringleaders to establish just how hard they’ve been trying to exercise that right.
They reckon work experience is slave labour and have been kicking up such a stink that big firms have been looking for the exit rather than be branded as the bad buys.
So let’s look at all sides of the argument.
Sir Stuart, for starters, should put a sock in it. He may have had to sweep floors and stack shelves way back when, but he was still an M&S trainee and that’s always been a pretty plum job.
No doubt he deserved it, but he has little in common with today’s clueless graduates waving a worthless degree in dance and international relations and a ton of debt, or a 16-year-old struggling to fill out an application form because they managed to complete 11 years and more of schooling without mastering the absolute basics.
The Right To Work campaign should pipe down, too. They’re shamelessly exploiting a situation for their own ends, and shame on them for it.
Firms should be encouraged to open their doors, as long as they’re always aware of the risk they run – if they don’t offer decent opportunities their name will quickly become mud, and rightly so.
And kids, here’s the kicker. We live in a capitalist system, the guiding principle of which is to pay as little as you can for something and then spin the biggest profit you can. That includes labour costs, so get used to it.
Work usually sucks. That’s why they pay you money to get you to do it.
And if all anyone learns from work experience is that they need to work harder to have a better experience when they clock on, it’s an experience worth having.