Chris Grayling gave a speech today that mirrored his response to the
recent work experience brouhaha: punchy, practical and broadly persuasive. Except there were some parts that might cause a few jitters, and which are certainly representative of jitters along
Downing Street. First, this passage:
‘It’s easy to hire someone from Eastern Europe with five years’ experience and who has had the get-up-and-go to cross a continent in search for work.
But those who look closer to home find gems too. Very often the surly young man in a hoodie who turns up looking unwilling to work can turn into an excited and motivated
And then this:
‘I personally think that anyone who offshores customer service is mad.
We all know how frustrating it can be speaking to a call centre operator overseas who works from a set script but doesn’t get what your problem is.’
It’s not quite as blunt as Gordon Brown’s infamous ‘British jobs for British workers’ maxim, but it’s the closest that this government has got to it so far. Whereas their
policy approach has been about creating British workers for British jobs — training up Brits so that they’re more attactive to employers — this is more a rhetorical nudge designed to
encourage employers to choose British over foreign. No doubt it has come about because certain welfare reforms that should help Brits into work, such as IDS’s Universal Credit, are years away from
being implemented. In the meantime, Brits languishing in dole queues could harm the Tories’ electoral chances, so they’re hoping to talk the desired outcomes into happening.
I blogged last year that British workers missing
out on jobs could turn out to be a nightmare for Cameron. And, indeed, Grayling develops the theme in an interview with James in tomorrow’s issue of the Spectator. ‘There is no doubt,’
he says, ‘that a young person coming out of school, college or university without the experience [of work] is at a disadvantage compared to someone coming into the UK from overseas.’
And he adds:
‘Employers may well be looking at a choice between a young British unemployed person, who may not yet have experience under their belt, and somebody from eastern Europe in his
mid-twenties with previous experience and the get-up-and-go to move across the continent. I think we have to rebalance the process and give a leg up to the young unemployed people
The question, of course, is whether the government can ‘rebalance the process’ beyond what it is already doing, and whether employers will be on board with that. It’s
certainly a tough ‘un for Grayling & Co. What they’re effectively trying to do is fight back against globalisation and its challenges — and that’s like battling against the tide.