Posted by: Admin | July 29, 2010


Time for a rant, folks, so hold on to your hats. Or look away now if you don’t have the stomach for it. The “theme” for this weekend’s article and interview is careers, so I’m kicking off with the plight of the younger generation.

Looking towards an uncertain future

Firstly, allow me to introduce you to Daughter No. 1. Her name is Katy, she’s 24 and, as you can see, rather lovely. She is also extremely bright, ambitious, a hard worker and responsible. So responsible, in fact, that for the past three years she has worked as a supervisor in Visitor Services for the summer opening of one of our most famous Stately Homes. This means she has been security checked at the highest level and is entrusted with the smooth running of part of what is probably the most efficient tourist operation in England, managing over twenty members of staff.

She already has a BA (2:1) in Art History and is currently writing her dissertation for her MA in Fine & Decorative Arts under the supervision of Sotheby’s in London. Her work record is exemplary, her CV impressive, including, as it does, stints working for Tiffany’s, Harrods and English Heritage. Both her training and inclination point towards working in museums, preferably in a curatorial role. She accepts that she will have to work as an unpaid intern for several months before she will even be considered for an entry level job – 100 plus unsuccessful applications have told her this. Yet today she was told she would not even be interviewed for a part-time internship in her current place of work.

“What more can I do, Mum?” she asked on the phone. She sounded resigned, defeated in a most un-Katy-like way. “I can’t even get an interview for unpaid work in my field.”

She’s not alone, of course. Graduate unemployment is at an all-time high (as expected after the last Government’s blind rush to increase student numbers) and for those in employment, 59% of employees who graduated in the last two years are “not currently working in a field or profession related to the degree they studied.” (HR Magazine, 30th March 2010)

So much effort, so little reward - so far

And what was the Government’s response to the growing number of jobless graduates? The introduction of the “Graduate Talent Pool”, an innovation that set the seal on the exploitation of our young people by riding roughshod over employment law to institutionalise unpaid internships. There isn’t room here for an in depth discussion on the legality, never mind the morality of what amounts to slave labour (click here for a BBC report). As you’ve probably realised, I could keep you here until teatime if you get me started.

Graduates like Katy are grateful for the education they have been privileged to receive, even while the level of debt they have incurred in the process causes sleepless nights. She doesn’t think the world owes her a living, or shy away from hard graft. It’s the inequality that really stings. “It means that only those students whose parents can support them into their mid-twenties stand any chance of breaking into this area of employment,” Katy says. Or those students who have the energy to work evenings and weekends to support themselves through the full time jobs they are expected to do for nothing. If they’re lucky.

So – who will employ my daughter?

Fifty-somethings who have risen to the top of their professions have a responsibility to encourage, mentor and promote the interests of the next generation. All that graduates like Katy are asking for is a chance to exercise the knowledge, passion and enthusiasm that they have gained from the education we have provided for them, whether directly, as financially supporting parents, or indirectly, through our taxes. They want to give back, to play their part in hauling this country out of recession. No one is served by the creation of a lost generation of academic high-flyers.

I don’t have the answers. I just know that it is up to my generation to at least ask the questions. As for Katy, she’ll pick herself up, just as she has 100 times before, and she’ll keep on applying. The girl doesn’t want for tenacity or talent. And if there is anyone out there – anywhere – who would like to employ Katy, preferably with the moral integrity to pay at least the minimum wage, contact her via project50.

I invite you to change the world, one young person at a time!

Tomorrow: Would you want to work past 65? Plus this week’s Saturday Interview is with iconic photographer, Annabel Williams


  1. I liked you rant, well said and written x

  2. Gosh Jo, If I could employ her I would! She sounds fantastic. I cant imagine how frustrating it must be for her. I really hope she is offered something soon, she certainly deserves it.

  3. Thanks for your comments. It is a shame as Katy has so much to offer, but she is one among many I’m afraid. I suspect that hers is a profession where parental networks are paramount.
    What are barriers for if not for climbing, though, eh?

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