‘I think the most important thing is about inclusive growth, and its about people feeling right at the centre shaping what the growth looks like’.
Monday’s final talk at the Youth Zone consisted of UK Youth’s Anna Smee, Mete Coban from My Life My Say, Stephen Kinnock MP, Ray Rooney from UK Youth Voice and Tom Morrison-Bell from Microsoft discussing the challenges preventing young people from being able to enter and sustain employment in the UK and how to create an economy for all.
The panel was an interesting insight into how we can ensure young people have opportunities. It was a breath of fresh air as it moved away from the usual theoretical ‘what if’ discussions of Brexit that took place at this party conference. As talks continue about #people’s vote, My Life My say are working on ensuring that a plan is ready when Brexit happens. This type of pragmatic approach is something many, including myself, believe is needed.
Afterwards, I was able to interview Mete Coban, the CEO of My Life My Say, on his work and what he believes is needed for the economy to prosper and for young people to find sustained employment.
When talking to Mete Coban about the AAPG paper on Brexit and young people, the economy was a conversation that came up. Specifically, how those in power can ensure that all are included and benefit from it:
‘I think the most important thing is about inclusive growth, and it’s about people feeling right at the centre [and] shaping what the growth looks like. Because, I think the policy-makers, experts, politicians and different stakeholders can kind of get their own idea of what that success looks like, but what we need to do is to ensure that the relevant stakeholders and communities that are affected by it have an actual say in it. In this case, we are talking about our generation, young people. And when I say inclusive growth, what I mean is where we have growth in prosperity. Making sure that young people, locals to those communities, are able to benefit from that growth’.
We also touched on the fact that the Conservatives have been promoting how unemployment levels have decreased since they took power.
‘When you look at Government statistics around lowest levels of unemployment, [you still] have the highest levels of zero-hour contracts, highest levels of part-time work, highest level of self-employed work. Again, you question how many of those are actual living-wage jobs? How many of those are entry-level jobs?’
Ray Rooney, from UK Youth Voice, discussed his own experiences regarding being a young person trying to find work. And whilst his story is inspiring and had a positive ending, it is a situation that has been echoed time and time again; young people are doing the courses, the BTECs and the unpaid apprenticeships but if there is a lack of business in the area the likelihood of finding work is slim, no matter how skilled you are.
When asked, how we can get businesses to move to areas where there is a high number of young people out of work; in other words, how do we ensure a redistribution of wealth throughout the UK and not just in London? Mete answered:
‘I think what we need to do … is think about how we provide incentives for business, to make sure they can go into these places. […] business has to think about business … but we need to think about more socially inclusive incentives that are able to draw those businesses’.
From the discussions from the panel, and my interview with Mete, what has become clear to me is this; whether Brexit happens or not, we need to be prepared. And we need to make sure that if young people are to succeed, the jobs must be there. For many in the North and even many in the South, it’s not just a question of doing a BTECH or college course, it’s a matter of having business be in close proximity to them.
To do this, the economy needs to take precedence in debates and discussions and more needs to be done to move businesses away from London and into areas that are falling behind.