Minister’s anger over ‘job snobs’ opposing Tesco work experience for unemployed
Writing for The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Grayling said that 20,000 young people have already moved off benefits after finding full-time jobs after taking up work experience organised by jobcentres
By Robert Watts, Deputy Political Editor
Last Updated: 8:30PM GMT 18/02/2012
Chris Grayling, the employment minister, has described critics of a flagship Government scheme to combat joblessness amongst the young as “hypocrites” and “jobs snobs”.
Opponents of the work experience scheme have in recent days claimed it is tantamount to “forced labour” and “21st century slavery”, after it emerged that some of the positions offered included night shifts of shelf stacking for Tesco, the supermarket giant.
Until the Coalition government changed the law, it was possible for anyone undertaking unpaid work experience to lose their benefits.
As well as allowing young jobseekers to keep their benefits during eight weeks of unpaid work experience, the Department for Work and Pensions has found voluntary placements for people in supermarkets and other employers.
Writing for The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Grayling said that 20,000 young people have already moved off benefits after finding full-time jobs after taking up work experience organised by jobcentres.
He said the Government hopes find a further 100,000 more of these placement over the coming year.
“Short term work experience placements lasting a few weeks are of immense value to young people looking to get a foothold on the job ladder,” Mr Grayling writes.
“The critics are job snobs. The Guardian newspaper publishes stories attacking big retailers for offering short-term unpaid work experience placements for young people.
“But that same Guardian newspaper advertises on its website – yes, you guessed it – short-term unpaid work experience placements for young people.
“The BBC’s Newsnight joined in the attack on big retailers offering unpaid work experience. And on the BBC website? Yes, you guessed it again – an offer of unpaid work experience placements. It’s time we put an end to this hypocrisy.”
Mr Grayling lauded the example set by Sir Terry Leahy, the former chief executive of Tesco, who stacked shelves and washed floors before rising to the top of the country’s biggest supermarket.
The row has already lead to protests against the supermarket, with one of the group’s stores in Westminster forced to close yesterday due to protesters who chanted: “Tesco bosses hear us say, we won’t work if you won’t pay.”
Tesco has stressed that it would not have participated in the government’s work experience scheme if it was mandatory.
A spokesman for the company said the advert that initially sparked the row was an advert for work experience with a guaranteed job interview at the end of it.
Youth unemployment has proved a persistently damaging political problem for the Coalition government since joblessness amongst 16-24 year-olds passed 1million last November.
This was the first time this landmark figures had been reached since records began in the early 1990s.
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