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From: The Socialist issue 637, 9 September 2010: We can stop the Con-Dem cuts

Search site for keywords: Apprenticeships - Labour - Youth - Pay - Youth Fight for Jobs

No to slave labour apprenticeships!

The lack of college places means that those young people who find themselves among the 150,000 failed university applicants will now start looking for alternatives.

Before the election the Tories claimed that they would implement "a big, bold, radical scheme to get millions of people back to work". This included the creation of 100,000 apprenticeships to tackle the rising youth unemployment.

Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) argued at the time that this was just an empty promise from the party that presided over a period of mass youth unemployment during the 1980s. And the actions of the government prove this prediction to be correct. The Tories are no different today to what they were then.

The schemes that have been rolled out by Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary for Work and Pensions, have been bold only in their strident attacks on working class youth.

Rather than apprenticeships, we have slave labour schemes where the unemployed will be forced to do "voluntary" work to receive benefits payments.

Rather than learning the skills needed to go into a trade and secure a long term future, young people will now find themselves stuck in a cycle of going from one low paid menial job to another.

One in five (almost one million) 16-24 year olds are not in work, training or employment. The government's promise to create 100,000 apprenticeships would only scratch the surface of this problem.

In the wake of the university places fiasco, apprenticeships are hugely in demand. In August, 24,000 people applied for just 221 apprenticeships at BT. Nissan has just opened up 75 places for apprentices, this just a year after shedding 1,200 jobs.

It is clear that to provide people with real apprenticeships on decent rates of pay will require a mass programme of public works and the nationalisation, under democratic workers control, of businesses like Nissan when they threaten to lay people off.

Even those that are lucky enough to get a place face an uncertain future.

Apprenticeships are usually unpaid with no guarantee that you will have a job at the end of the training period. Employers are clearly misusing apprenticeship as a way to bring in cheap labour under the guise of training young school and college leavers and then dumping them for a new batch of young workers before they have to pay them.

YFJ fights for the rights of all youth to a decent job and a decent education. We say that employers should be made to pay apprentices the going rate for the job they are doing and that it should come with a guaranteed job at the end.

We need to build a mass campaign to say no to slave labour schemes and rip off apprenticeships.

Paul Callanan

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