How Ian’s generation see their job chances slipping away

In 2008, Ian Pattison was one of 456,627 full-time students beginning their first year at university. Today, he is one of the 991,000 16 to 24-year-olds unemployed and claiming benefits.

The difficulty in finding work didn’t come as much of a surprise to Ian. By the time he was sitting his final exams at Newcastle University two years ago, the economy had already taken a nose dive and those just entering the jobs market were bearing the brunt of the decline.

In an attempt to make him a more attractive candidate to potential employers and in the hope of bypassing the worst of the downturn, Ian returned home having secured a place on a Masters course in politics at Leeds University.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

As he watched his friends struggle to find work which matched their qualifications or, in fact, any job which would help them make inroads into the debts they had accrued as students it seemed like a smart move. However, as his time in academia drew to an end, graduate prospects had not got any better. For many they had got a whole lot worse.

“When I was at school I remember teachers telling us that if we went to university we would be almost guaranteed a £30,000 job at the end of end it,” says the 22-year-old. “It wasn’t that we felt that a sense of entitlement, just that there was no shortage of jobs. Basically, if you worked hard, got a decent degree then you would get work.

“Clearly a lot has changed in the last few years. With more and more applicants for fewer and fewer jobs the increased competition means that a degree is often not enough to secure a decent job. It was one of the reasons why I went on to do a Masters, I thought it would give me a bit of an edge.”

Ian doesn’t’ resent his extra year in academia, but despite a number of interviews he has failed to find work and is now reliant on Jobseeker’s Allowance.

“I was lucky to be able to do a Masters,” he says. “I moved back to live at home which meant that I didn’t have to pay rent and bills on top of the fees, but I know there are a lot of other people who don’t have that option.

“There are some people who say, ‘What are they complaining about, when I left university I had to work for free for six months before I found work’. That’s fine, but that was also in the days before tuition fees and when grants covered living costs. It’s a very different situation today and the old rules don’t apply.

“Ultimately, I know that the years I have spent in education will pay off, but at the moment it is frustrating.” Most depressing of all, he says, is the lack of action from the Government, the poor decisions made by the previous administration and what he sees as a lack of practical support for those ready but unable to work.

“When I first left university and went to the Job Centre, I asked if they could offer me any help about how best to sell myself on an application. Aside from the academic qualifications, I’ve got quite a lot of work experience and all I wanted was a little help in presenting my CV.

“I was told they didn’t do that sort of thing and was just directed to the jobs they had on their database.

“Maybe I had a bad experience, but it seems whenever you go to see them, all they are interested in is ticking boxes.”

Ian has only been out of university for two months, but is prepared for a much longer wait before he finds paid-for work. Ultimately, he’d like to work as a press officer, possibly for a trade union, but in the meantime he is volunteering with Youth Fight For Jobs, the organisation behind the recreation of the Jarrow March.

Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill recently wrote off the protest, claiming it was an insult to the memory of the original 1936 marchers after it was reported many had left the demonstration either complaining of sore feet or to sign on.

“Those kind of comments are not only unhelpful, but they are a sign of someone out of touch with what is happening on the streets and to the people they are supposed to represent,” says Ian.

“A few years ago, students were branded as apathetic when it came to politics, but if the recession has done one good thing it has politicised a generation.

“These are educated people who have decided not to get angry, but to get organised. We are not asking for much, just a chance to earn a living. Sadly, if yesterday’s unemployment figures show anything, it’s that more and more of us are being denied that opportunity.”