More youngsters get jobs – but not careers

There was seasonal cheer in December for job seekers with 700 in Kent and Medway coming off the dole.

Nationally, the unemployment rate dipped to 7.4%. The number of people in work edged over 30 million for the first time last year.

But will this good new jobs story continue into 2014?

People on unemployment benefits has declined
People on unemployment benefits has declined

Experts believe it will, with the national rate expected to fall to 7% much sooner than expected. This is the crucial potential trigger for a rise in interest rates.

Not before time, I hear savers say.

The reasons behind this relentless downward trend are hard to fathom.

Sure, the economy has picked up, and new businesses are being formed, but these are largely one-person bands.

Go into any supermarket and you see ranks of self-service checkouts. That means fewer jobs for, especially, young people. Automation is getting rid of jobs.

Many new jobs are part-time and low-paid – especially in retail and social care. Millions of people are on zero-hours contracts.

There are not enough career roles being created. How will younger people afford a mortgage, let alone persuade a lender that they have sufficient regular income?

It will be great to see unemployment continue to fall across the county this year.

But beware of smoke and mirrors.

Betteshanger Colliery in 1946. Picture: BBC
Betteshanger Colliery in 1946. Picture: BBC

Our proud mining heritage

Kent’s mines may have closed more than 20 years ago but this year the spotlight will focus on the remarkable achievement of the county’s proud miners over many decades.

Plans for a £120 million Betteshanger Sustainable Parks project will move on apace thanks to the drive of Hadlow College, the government and local councils. This will be a role model for green technology at the former colliery site but will also – much to my approval – re-examine the proud history of Kentish mining.

Aylesham is an eye-opener. The community spirit of this mining village is palpable. Ex-miners are loving custodians of their past. The embryo of the proposed Betteshanger mining heritage centre is there, in scrapbooks, posters, letters, miners’ lamps and other artefacts.

These courageous men and the families who supported them through good times and bad should never be forgotten. It will be good to see their work celebrated on a bigger canvas.

Students taking part in experiments at the Big Bang show at Discovery Park, Sandwich
Students taking part in experiments at the Big Bang show at Discovery Park, Sandwich

Why it all stems from the big bang

The Big Bang hi-tech careers show attracted more than a thousand pupils to Discovery Park.

It highlighted career opportunities in science and technology, areas where we will need many skills in the coming years as demand rises and experienced workers retire. The same goes for the construction industry.

It seems that STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – are becoming more popular, thanks in part to the work of Kent and Medway STEM. Media studies are not much use if you want to run wind turbines or build houses.

The former Pfizer HQ is a good venue for these shows – but please give visitors
better signage in 2014. It’s all very confusing for newcomers.

An exchange of help for charity

The many links between charities and business were given a shot in the arm by the Big Exchange in Maidstone. It’s a website that brings together the expertise of the latter with the needs of the former. Many enlightened firms already do this without any website, and proactive charities know how to tap firms. But for the less savvy, and with charities under more competitive and economic pressure than ever, it’s an idea that should be extended across the county this year.

Taxing subject for pensioners

I hope we will see less carping at pensioners in 2014. It’s opening a gulf between generations. I know the older generation is fortunate in many way but it’s an accident of timing. They contribute so much to voluntary and social life and, of course, are closer to the Grim Reaper than the young. They should not be dismissed as a pampered, under-taxed group. As for the bus pass, keep it for health and environmental reasons – but there’s no reason why it could not be taxed.

Confidence is paramount

Expect Paramount Park plans to advance this year, with more financial commitment from investors. Their confidence in the project will have been boosted by the government’s sensible decision to scrap option B for the site of the Lower Thames Crossing, which would have cut through the planned site on the Swanscombe Peninsula. It should never have been on the list in the first place.

No sign of plan take-off yet

The airport debate will continue in a holding pattern over Kent and Medway this year. With the Davies Commission failing to rule out the Isle of Grain proposals, arguments will rage back and forth. Davies was sensible to keep the option in, while demanding more research. It makes sense from an academic perspective but could be eliminated by airline and local resistance, cost and environmental impact.

Kick Start 2014

Between the Lines wishes all Kent and Medway businesses a prosperous 2014 – and please consider taking on a young person. It could Kick Start your enterprise.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More