I WENT to B76 in Church Street to view the Barnardo’s project about young people in Hartlepool and their future job prospects.
The film had its premiere a couple of weeks before but I was unable to attend because of Parliamentary business in Westminster.
It is an important film, capturing people’s views on the decline of heavy and traditional industry and what job prospects are now available for young people in Hartlepool.
The young people made the film themselves, and it is of a genuinely high quality that wouldn’t look out of place on the BBC or Channel 4.
I was particularly pleased to see the young people enjoy themselves, make new friends while at the same time producing something of such good quality and learning modern skills like camera techniques, sound recording and editing.
The relative certainties that many people of my grandparents’ generation are now gone forever.
The days when somebody could leave school on the Friday at the age of 14 or 15, start work on the following Monday and have the same line of employment for 30 or 40 years are not coming back.
In many respects, these days ended in the 1980s, when I was growing up. I remember growing up in the recessions of the 1980s, when industries and jobs were ending, and worrying about the future.
I think young people growing up in Hartlepool today face very similar feelings. It is the bleakest time to be a teenager in terms of job prospects. Youth unemployment is at a million, and is rising faster than any other age group.
Young people are frustrated with the catch 22 situation of not being able to get a job or training place without demonstrating experience of the workplace, but can’t get experience without a job or employment history.
Things that were intended to help address this, such as the Future Jobs Fund, which worked very well in Hartlepool, have been stopped by the Government.
The scrapping of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which did really help to keep young people in college or training, will have a negative impact.
Young people in Church Street said that they were not sure they could afford to go to college now.
This will have an impact on the economic development and potential for the town for the next fifty years.
Indeed, it will affect the town now, in quite significant ways: about 70 per cent of students in the town receive EMA, and that is spent on food, travel and materials in the town.
Sandwich shops around colleges will certainly notice the difference.
In the face of such a bleak picture, I am keen to put the young people of the town as a top priority.
I hope the whole of Hartlepool could work together with such great organisations like B76 to ensure that young people today do not become the lost generation, but are given all the help and support they need to get a chance of work.
l Youngsters look to their future: Page 33