The question of opportunities for university grade education was brewing as I did the main DIY blog but the full horrors facing the wishful graduates were not known.
Around 150,000 students have made the grade but will be denied a university place. What does the government expect them to do?
We were warned last week that youth unemployment was on the increase, and would soon pass the one million mark. Things look bleak indeed for a generation that is at a real risk of being lost.
In light of this, this year's A-Levels result day takes on a particular, gloomy, significance. It is already clear that at least 150,000 students with both the grades and the desire to study at university this coming year will be left without a place. Given that there were this year approximately 600,000 university applicants in total this year, this means that at least a quarter of applicants will be shut out. The government's response to the present crisis has thus far been fit only for the birds, with disappointed and frustrated applicants being left to peck at crumbs.
We live in a world where our youth seem permanently disaffected and many have poor self-images. All their scholastic life so far has been focussed on the final hurdle - to get to university, heads down for three years and then leave with a qualification that has value. The last year of studies has been mired in accusations that standards have been dumbed down. Critics have said that this was a Blair initiative to reduce the number of unemployed youth; whatever, it has been destroyed by the coalition's drive to cut back on education as part of the draconian cost reviews. Of course, applying to university is a competitive process. What we have here, however, are applicants who have worked hard in order to achieve grades that would in other circumstances get them a university place now finding out that the goalposts have been drastically moved, and for reasons entirely out of their control.
This limit on places, crucially, is not one of necessity; the restrictions on university places are being achieved through an entirely arbitrary cap on student numbers, which is itself being enforced through the government's threat to fine any university which ends up oversubscribed.
Many universities have complained that they may even be left with spare capacity once term starts, with the government fines preventing them from over-recruiting slightly at this stage in order to account for the inevitable drop-outs that occur between now and the start of term.
"I would not dare predict what will happen if my generation finds itself to have been lied to, betrayed and abandoned to sink or swim. But the experience of the 1980s makes it starkly clear what happens when governments fail to invest in its future. As youth unemployment hit 1 million during the recession of the early 1980s, it provoked a national crisis and riots, creating permanent scars on the fabric of our economy and society."
The latest communique from the State Home for the Mentally Confused at Westminster typifies exactly how out of touch the Ministers really are. "Willetts told the MPs that disappointed teenagers should do work experience or an apprenticeship and apply to university at a later stage. You don't have just one opportunity at the age of 18 to go to university, people can carry on applying," he said. "We don't want to get into a situation where the entire focus is on the academic route. People can do work experience and take up apprenticeships and maybe apply to university in the future." Just what is the point of playing about in a makee-learnee semi-job when all of one's efforts have been to leap that last hurdle.
And just where does the two-brain senior idiot think all these work opportunity schemes (for limited periods only) and apprenticeships will come from? Apprenticeships are primarily craft based - where would one find an apprenticeship on PPE for example. And just what sort of employer would offer an apprenticeship to someone who wants to cut and run half way through? For every prospective uni graduate that gets one of these alternative, fill time, employment activities a lesser qualified youngster is denied their placement and opportunities. Sadly, given the state of the economy, together with the government's actions - in cutting the future jobs fund, breaking up of the Connexions service, and savagely cutting further education, for example - many young people will start their working lives by signing on. The suggestion of volunteer work is a farce - what money will they bring in?
Willetts and Cable said they had provided 10,000 more university places than last year, 150,000 extra apprenticeships and they were working on providing financial incentives for employers to take on young staff.
"I fully recognise that these are tough times for younger people going into education, training, or the jobs market," Willetts said. "But, given the state of the public finances that we have inherited, providing more apprenticeship places and university places and incentives for employers to take on more staff means opportunities are continuing to increase." Statements that are only just short of outright lies. The government has not created a single apprenticeship - with a fair wind they may have encouraged an employer to take on an apprenticeship. I was an apprentice myself and know that it can be two or three years before an apprentice can be expected to produce the sort of work a 'man' does in the time that 'man' takes. The current economics do not encourage the recruitment of dead weight. The claim regarding extra university places is shown to be hot air in real results. We are forecasting widescale shedding of labour so the claim "incentives for employers to take on more staff means opportunities are continuing to increase" is total testicles.
Clegg would do well to use his time at the helm to turn the sinking ship of youth opportunity around before it's too late for us. If he fails to do so and bails out on youth, it would only be natural for them to do it themselves before they are sold down the river.