This week Labour Party leader Ed Miliband delivered his keynote party conference speech, his last party conference speech before the 2015 election. Here is a quick flavour of what he said
“[Under David Cameron]…the most vulnerable have been cast aside, thrown on the scrapheap, not listened to even when they have a case. They’ve been told: you’re on your own…The deck is stacked. The game is rigged for those who have all the power. In just eight months, we’re going to call time on this way of running the country….Because if you want the best example of the “you’re on your own”, insecure, rig the system for the powerful few, trickle down, throwback dogma then just look at this government.”
This is run of the mill complaint for the leader of a social democratic party in opposition so how did it relate in to campaign pledges? And what might we deduce from them about what future careers guidance might have under Labour government. Miliband had six key points:
- To reward people for hard work – raising the national wage to half the number of people on low pay
- To tackle the cost of living crisis and make sure wages increased with economic growth, breaking up banks and taking power from Whitehall
- Britain to create a million jobs in green industries – helping to tackle global climate change
- Making sure as many school leavers go on to apprenticeships as go to university – companies who employ foreign workers will be expected to offer apprenticeships too, and those who want Government contracts will need to provide apprenticeships
- Making the dream of home-ownership a reality by building more homes and making sure 400,000 first-time buyers a year get on property ladder
- Save the NHS – provide a “truly 21st century health service” using the proceeds of a mansion tax on homes above £2m and a tax on tobacco firms
Of the six points four are vocationally orientated with the NHS promise having a focus around creating new jobs in the detail as well. In brief I feel there are a few things to note, some encouragement and some discouragement at the thought of MIliband becoming our next Prime Minister.
Firstly you can see where a labour government will be looking to create jobs. Apprenticeships, jobs in the NHS and Green jobs. Come 2016 it may be worth those of who feel a bit out of step to start brushing up on the green economy and what employment there is there. For those who support sixth formers understanding more about apprenticeships may be the case. For the careers sector at large there is a question around what career guidance related jobs may come with this.
On what is encouraging as I noted above Miliband is targeting employment as a key vehicle of social mobility. When the government is looking to pull levers to get more people in to better employment there should be opportunity for the profession to make its case for what that could look like. Particularly the news about apprenticeships opens up an avenue for the profession to make robust arguments about how young people will make well informed decisions about whether to go to uni or do an apprenticeship. Though I guess people who have been around the block longer than me will feel a bit circumspect about how open to this any government is going to be.
Thirdly I do find myself not sitting very easy with Miliband’s approach. You can not get away from the feeling that Miliband is paying a very calculated game. He deliberately stayed away on the whole from three big areas in his speech; the deficit, Europe and immigration and benefits. This was not a robust assault on the neo-liberal cuts of the last government but a few nice ideas about a broadly more social UK but with an eye mainly on middle class votes rather than looking to restructure society. Green jobs and roles in the NHS are more than likely going to be filled by tertiary educated professionals. Raising the minimum wage is welcome but with no discussion of benefits or reform in the provision of social services or the education sector we are left asking how the working class are going to be supported by a labour government? This should worry all professionals who want a socially progressive economic agenda in this country.
This is more generally political but I do feel that Miliband sees the swing voters who will decided the next election as being primarily middle class and tertiary educated. For anyone who stands on the left politically you can not help but feel taken for granted by Miliband. There is a lack of radical ambition with the Labour party as they approach the next election and with it we most ask if a labour government has the radical vision to tackle youth unemployment and inequality and the growing crisis of careers education in schools?