Hundreds turn up for MPs’ Jobs Fair at West Ham United
- Credit: Archant
“I might go back to the John Lewis desk,” said Marley Laurent, 18, as she’s jostled around in a suite at West Ham United.
“I might go back to the John Lewis desk,” said Marley Laurent, 18, as she’s jostled around in a suite at the West Ham United stadium.
“I’ve even offered to work in a shop for free just to get the work experience but so far I’ve been unsuccessful.
“The thing is, with most jobs you have to apply online and, as soon as they see you don’t have any retail experience, it’s a complete no-go and people don’t get back to you.”
The young law student then wandered off to fill in an application form for Aspers Casino.
Marley is hoping she will find her break at last week’s MPs’ Jobs Fair, a joint effort between Newham Labour Parliamentarians Stephen Timms and Lyn Brown who teamed up for the first time last year, inviting job seekers to speak to local employers with vacancies.
Both say it was their way of doing something practical to help in a tough economic climate.
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Mr Timms, MP for East Ham, said: “I was nervous that people would even show up last year but, actually, about 700 turned up so it was clear there was a big interest in this and we felt we should do it again.
“The government has really tried to divide people and, frankly, whip up resentment towards people on benefits but just look how many people are here.”
Ms Brown, MP for West Ham, said that the number of people dropping by to her surgery has doubled in the last two years.
She said: “Things have got a lot worse for people in that time – the benefits changes which I talk about in my column all the time.
“And people might get bored of it but, frankly, it is the biggest impact we have on life round here because it has a particular effect on young people, and it’s just wrong.”
Currently, 13.2 per cent of the MPs’ constituents are unemployed but Mr Timms has the challenge of devising an alternative strategy in his role as shadow employment minister.
“Unemployment is getting worse,” noted Mr Timms. “There is a lot going on in this area, there will be many more opportunities opening up in this part of London than there were in the past, but we need to make sure that the people who live here can take advantage of it.”
He points to the £4billion Westfield Stratford City development – which has to employ a quota of people from the surrounding area as a planning condition – as “a very good model, we should be doing more of that”.
Mr Timms also supports a compulsory jobs guarantee where the long-term unemployed will be offered a choice of positions to work at least 25 hours a week – some of which, he admits, may have to be funded by the government on the minimum wage – on the condition that they have to take one.
The current education system is also not up to date with changes in the workplace, according to Mr Timms, who went to Germany last week to see how they were dealing with youth unemployment.
He added: “People from job centres in Germany go into the schools and say ‘what are you going to be doing when you leave school? Have you sorted out an apprenticeship for yourself? Well, let’s work this out’.
“Here, there really isn’t any interaction between the job centres and the schools, and the careers service has more or less been dismantled.
“They’ve just been given some money and told to get on with it.”
The complex set of problems and circumstances is too complicated to be told as a simple narrative and this, according to Ms Brown, is one of the reasons why a ‘blame culture’ has emerged.
“When we talk about unemployment now,” she begins, “because of the bad media, you think of people laying in bed, generation after generation, curtains closed, living the life of Riley on benefits but the reality is somewhat different.
“The reality is a whole bunch of really ambitious people who are failing to get an opportunity to get on the ladder of employment.
“It’s also about people who have had well-paid jobs who no longer have careers and they are bemused to be finding a way back on to the jobs market.
“It’s about young people who don’t have contacts, so they don’t understand how one fills in a form to work in the public sector and will therefore write an application that will not even be considered by the HR department of a local authority or health trust.”
Ms Brown says she “loathes” the language used in the benefits debate that has come to be characterised as “strivers v shirkers”.
“I can see it in the way that people approach me, as if there’s massive shame in not having a job,” she says.
“We have 2.5 million people unemployed in this country – there’s no shame in not having a job if you’re trying to get one.”