Keep it Alight – Redcar, Young People and the Precarious Future : Katy McEwan blogs


Ta to Alan Mackie for drawing our attention to this sharp blog by Katy McEwan, which exposes once more the wilful amnesia of those within our work, who believe [a la Barclays cynical tv advertising campaign] that young people just need ‘soft skills’ training. And thence all will be sweetness and light.

Grounding her thoughts in the immediate impact of the demise of the Redcar Steelworks plant, she begins:

The plant’s mothballing triggered an immediate loss of 1700 jobs, terrible enough, but this doesn’t take into account the supportive and associated roles that will be lost locally.  Those will roll into further thousands.  Such an enormous loss of well-paid, skilled, working-class jobs in a poor labour market like Teesside’s is nothing less than catastrophic.

Continuing she points out:

Young people seeking employment on Teesside through apprenticeship schemes already face a dire offer – figures for May 2015 show 2498 applications were received for the 255 vacancies available[7].  Many may choose higher education but, again, such upskilling is no guarantee of protection against the dangerously inadequate local labour market.  Recent national reports indicate 58% of graduates are now under-employed; a situation which applies downward pressure as graduates take on non-graduate jobs and push the low-skilled out of the employment market altogether.[8]

Intensified local competition for young people from a rush of older, skilled workers re-entering the job market is fundamentally damaging to their opportunities to make successful transitions.  Without well-paid secure employment, independent living and future planning becomes subject to on-going worry and precarity.  By not recognising and protecting the future employment opportunities for young people we do them a personal harm and disservice that has wider social implications for us all.  What would you do as a young person in Teesside facing this? How would you/do you feel about ever contracting decent employment opportunities? Angry? Despairing? These are dangerous conditions, born of frustration, which can lead many to the ‘sirens of populism’.[9]

She concludes:

Teesside may currently be eliciting nation-wide sympathy, but the narrative of ‘shirker’ is never far away from ‘striver’.[10] It seems to be only a matter of time before the un- and under-employed in Teesside will be blamed for the deprived situation they find themselves in. The young people of Teesside urgently need on-going, vibrant, relevant and public sociology, drawing political attention and action exactly where it is needed – to the on-going structural issues and away from relentless individualised attack.[11]  We must #KeepItAlight.

Read in full at Guest Post by Katy McEwan: Keep it Alight – Redcar and Young People with the illuminating references.

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