Last month the Prime Minister, David Cameron MP, gave a powerful speech at the Conservative Party Spring Forum and National Conservative Convention meeting in London. You may well think, “so what? He has given many speeches!“. The difference with this speech, however, is that the Prime Minister finally set out a comprehensive vision of what the Coalition Government – particularly the Conservative side of it – was doing (and wanted to do) to help back the aspirations of young people. You can read the speech here.
The Prime Minister argued that the Government was building a “ladder” for young people, with several “rungs“: family; education in school and after school; work; and a home of their own.
When talking about education in school, the Prime Minister focused on the importance of several key things including getting the “basics” right in schools and then nurturing each young person’s unique talents; getting tough on “sinking, failing and coasting schools“, and having high aspirations for all young people, regardless of what background they come from. He rightly noted that too often our education system has not met these criteria.
When talking about education after school, he spoke passionately about apprenticeships, and in particular his goal that “We want it to be the new norm in our country that at the age of 18, every school leaver either starts an Apprenticeship or goes to university.” This is something, he argued, which is already being done in Germany, a country which has good universities, excellent apprenticeships, and one of the lowest rates of youth unemployment in Europe.
Finally, when talking about work, the Prime Minister talked about the importance of tackling the welfare state and immigration as well as giving young people real opportunities like Start-Up Loans to set up and run their own business and the government’s Work Experience programmes to help get young people off benefits and into work. He also made a point that sometimes seems to be forgotten by the Labour Party, namely that youth unemployment was an issue for the last government as well as this one: “Never let them forget – youth unemployment went up by 40 per cent under Labour.”
All in all, it was a passionate speech with vision and ideas on how to help our young people, particularly on preventing and tackling youth unemployment. We only hope that these words and ideas are followed with real, substantive action – and soon.