Welfare is the gift that keeps on giving to the Tories. It’s a bit like the BBC to the Daily Mail or asylum seekers to… the Daily Mail. We are spoon-fed endless rhetoric about 'globalisation' and 'competition' yet continue to shit on the people at the bottom of the pile.
In this environment, the target group for Workfare (which will be rebranded in 2014 as ‘Welfare-to-Work’) are described as NEETs – standing for Not in Employment, Education or Training. They're job seekers who often lack even the most rudimental of work experience.
I can see where they’re coming from - when I left Uni, the only professional experience I had in my chosen field – music – was playing live at festivals. Better than nothing, certainly, but it didn't get my foot in the door at labels, publishers and promoters.
So it felt like a standing start, and the result was four years of in different professional areas before I made any progress.
Would I have been better off signing on and waiting for a Workfare scheme to come along? More bloody minded graduates would suggest so.
But the reality is that the professional experience offered by Workfare does not actually help many NEETs get jobs - it a placebo aimed at placating middle Englanders and political conservatives who see benefits recipients as scroungers.
So why not use the scheme to benefit NEETs in a way that they genuinely value?
Signature Pictures is a London-based film production enterprise. They thought it was a good idea to offer Workfare volunteers roles on a short film. This way, the company would benefit from interns – the way nearly every production does anyway – and would produce a film that would give NEETs meaningful and constructive professional experience.
The result is a 15 minute short that is coming out in January, and which was – unlike the jobs at Tesco – massively over-subscribed by NEETs. The film crew has come directly from the Jobcentre's queue, and the plan is to roll out the scheme nationally.
The arts-degree glut need not be a ticking time-bomb. Yes, there are more kids being poured out of media schools every year, and a British industry that cannot generate employment for all of them, but the country has the educational infrastructure to export talent globally for the next 50 years. Let’s not forget that.
Furthermore, a Uni degree is less central to professional identity for Millenials. Graduates who – a generation before - may have been channelled down traditional vocational routes are finding themselves in-house at companies that lacked the capacity or confidence to bring the creativity within the walls. This means a profound broadening of skill sets and a demystification ‘the arts’ - which has too often been shrouded in a kind of agnostic piety.
So the film premieres on the 13th January at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and places are available here. It’ll be online here after, and Spatz has entered it for a couple of festivals so we’ll see how we go.
The broadened horizons delivered by this kind of scheme will lead to more dynamic CVs, careers and workers. Anyone who has worked in film will tell you that testify to its long hours, tough conditions and often brutal bosses. This is how we embrace the arts to get Britain working again. I hope this film is the first step in that kind of a story for the NEETs, and not just more fodder for the Daily Mail.