With the news that UK youth unemployment is close to 1 million, Government is under pressure to find solutions. Employment minister Chris Grayling’s announcement today of a mix of training and work experience for young people sounds unconvincing.
Baroness Wheatcroft commended the radical solution of a Big Society Intern programme to the House of Lords 'Social Enterprise' debate last week.
The Big Society Intern programme is the brain-child of Robert Ashton - a social entrepreneur and best-selling business author – who suggests that a social enterprise task force which would employ bright youngsters could reduce the benefits bill and generate social and financial capital through and for social enterprises.
"The costs to society of large numbers of graduates, heavily laden with debt, growing despondent and pessimistic would be far greater,” said Mr Ashton. His article ‘The big society needs a graduate volunteer squad’ can be read here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/mortarboard/2011/jul/15/big-society-graduate-volunteers
Ashton says: "Two generations ago people did National Service and learned how to fight with guns. Many said it was character building. Now it’s far more appropriate to encourage young people to fight poverty, loneliness and social exclusion with their brains. This will be character building too, created the rounded, responsible and social conscious citizens we need today.”
Baroness Wheatcroft said: "I refer noble Lords to Robert Ashton, who dubs himself ‘the barefoot entrepreneur’….His other proposal, which I fully endorse, is that unemployed graduates might be put to work in social enterprises. Before very long the subsidy that they would need would turn into a wage paid for by the social enterprises that they would help to grow. It seems to me that the Big Society intern programme would be no bad thing,” she said.
Robert Ashton, who created the Norfolk Community Foundation in 2005, is involved with a number of CICs and social enterprises, has been searching for support for his ‘Big Society Task Force’.