Conference #3- Police and crime commissioners and youth unemployment
On day two of the Liberal Democrat Party Conference Kids Count excitedly transformed into fully-fledged reporter mode. Having already quite literally bumped into former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy, there was no sign of Clegg at this point. There were, however, plenty of opportunities for us to grill members of the party so that we could get to the bottom of where the liberal party really stands on all issues youth-related.
After a morning full to the brim with intriguing interviews we got the chance to delve into the mind of journalist Evan Davis (who you might recognise as the presenter of the BBCs Dragons Den), to find out his thoughts on various issues affecting young people. Specifically he spoke about an issue that we are particularly interested in, the newly elected police and crime commissioners and the effect that they are having on our communities.
Interestingly, he posed the view that it was too early to be able to judge their success, and that it would take several years before we begin to see the effects that these commissioners may have on their communities. In his opinion they are a great way to engage in democracy, but at the same time with such a low turnout in their elections it is hard to see how effective they will be. The occurrence of such a low turnout suggests that the public may be apathetic to the existence of police and crime commissioners, or that they were ill-informed about their roles prior to the elections. Whether you agree with his opinion or not, one thing can be said was that he was a pleasure to interview; interesting and well informed on a wide range of subjects, in particular issues relating to young people.
After a full day at conference centre, tired eyed and full bellied, I reflected on the prevalent themes that we came across while in Glasgow.
As mentioned in the last blog, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg mentioned the need to address youth unemployment, something that was mirrored on the conference floor.
Firstly, Gordon Birtwistle MP was speaking to a group of young people from the Youth Zone about the success of the apprenticeship program that the Lib Dems have been running for the past three years. He went on further to stress that there are alternative paths to employment that are distinct from the university pathway, giving an anecdote about a young girl that he had met who shunned the University of Oxford AND still managed to become a hugely successful engineer at BAE Systems.
Now is the time for a shift in attitude. We need to understand that university isn’t suitable for everyone and that there are alternative pathways to employment and other ways to become successful. Some careers would certainly be better accessed through more hands-on training than book study at university and that should be considered acceptable.
The apprenticeship program definitely sounds like a good one but needs more exposure so that more and more people are become aware of the opportunities it offers. Apprenticeships should be available in more fields of work so that those who aren’t suited to studying are still able to access those careers they want.
As well as having alternative options, part of the problem young people are faced with is that they are just not aware of the careers that are available to them, the careers they could pursue if only they knew about them. There’s a plethora of careers out there but to someone at the bottom of the career ladder, you often find yourself lost in job titles that you don’t understand.
Many of us can relate to the motion from Liberal Youth’s chair Sarah Harding; that there should be more careers guidance to young people before they reach employment age and not just relating to the obvious jobs. Connexions has been scrapped but something needs to take its place so we can all get the best step into adult life.
Being at the conference really makes you aware of the sheer number of activists on so many different topics, let’s see what else is on the agenda when it comes to young people this conference season.