The Creative Society is an arts employment charity that helps young people into jobs in the creative and cultural industries.
New measures to tackle unemployment for young workers just announced by Yvette Cooper, work and pensions secretary, are broadly as outlined in last week’s pre-budget report. Cooper launched the new white paper with a pledge to achieve full employment and stressed the Government’s particular commitment to young people seeking work. She promised 100,000 new jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities and a guarantee of work or training to any 18-24 year old on the dole for six months or more. Significantly, she announced help for the self-employed and advice from day one for the unemployed to set up their own business, including a £50 a week self-employment credit for people who have been unemployed for three months.
This is a significant breakthrough, which NDotM has consistently argued for for the creative industries. We look forward to contributing to its successful implementation. But the scale of the problem remains huge with more than a million 16-24 year olds thought to be not in education, employment or training (so-called NEETs). The “Young person’s guarantee” of work or training will still depend greatly on the Future Jobs Fund, a work creation scheme which is proving slow to implement. NDotM’s guide on how to successfully use this programme can be found here.
Earlier in the day Cooper and the Prime Minister visited a West London JobCentre Plus. Gordon Brown said he was determined not to see youth unemployment continue to rise and drain an entire generation of ambition as it had after the recessions of the 1980s and 90s. As NDotM has argued often, a generation left out in the cold is bad news for the economy as a whole.
Cooper and her jobs minister, Jim Knight, have spoken a lot recently of flexibility and providing flexible support but it is disappointing not to see a commitment to self-employment and help for those trying to set up small businesses. Mentoring and internships were mentioned and encouraged on the Backing Young Britain website but innovative ways of getting more of those million into paid work are desperately needed.
Government could, for example, insist that the vast army of unpaid interns – many of them in the creative sector – are paid at least the minimum wage. Once again we commend the excellent blog Interns Anonymous http://internsanonymous.co.uk/category/gossip/ (this links to the entertaining gossip section but you can navigate to the home page from there) which reports on abuse of the intern system: one private equity company for example is seeking an unpaid intern for two to three months. As the blogger points out, a private equity company can hardly be short of cash.
But the days of using interns as cheap labour may be numbered. This blog recently reported on growing concern in sections of the media. Now the Broadcasting and Entertainments Union BECTU has won a great victory at a Reading industrial tribunal . The tribunal decided that an unpaid intern, Nicola Vetta, working on an expenses-only contract at London Dreams Motion Pictures was entitled to the minimum wage. BECTU and the National Union of Journalists, which have both campaigned on this front, are eagerly awaiting detailed judgment. It really could mark a tremendous change for young people trying to get work in the creative industries, which are fast becoming a byword for slave labour. We should not fall for the weasel argument that if interns have to be paid they simply won’t get work. Most do valuable work for their bosses and deserve to be paid. If their tasks are not part of a monitored educational work placement programme, then what they do is work and should be paid as such.