Complaints from politicians and captains of industry that our youth are not "work ready" and lack the grit, motivation and resilience needed to land a job don't address the real problem, which is what kind of people they seek to employ in the first place. If teenagers leave school unable to complete decent CVs or dress appropriately for an interview and are inarticulate and unmotivated, then the blame must be shared between their parents and teachers.
I don't accept that the reason why 1.09 million young people are unemployed – one in seven – is because they are lazy and unfocused. In fact, the number of Neets (16- to 24-year-olds not in training or education) is about the same as 2010, and a bit more than in 2008. That's quite a few years for schools, employers and governments to have put their heads together and dealt with the problem. Instead, we're told that these kids lack social skills – but isn't it funny that a bunch of inmates from two jails are working in a call centre for £20 a week, conducting interviews with members of the public? A spokesman said it would enable them to "work towards apprenticeships and industry-recognised qualifications". What qualifications you need to read out a script about solar panels, God only knows, but the fact is the prisoners are deemed a worthy cause (and why not?), whereas the young are seen as wilfully not helping themselves by lacking self-confidence. Prisoners are attractive employees because they are cheap labour who don't expect benefits such as sick pay and flexible hours.
Sussex Police are looking for staff to interview criminal suspects, without any supervision, after just four weeks' training. These "response investigators" will be investigating crimes, meeting witnesses and collecting evidence. Isn't that what highly trained, motivated police officers did? The police say these fake coppers will release more of the real variety to patrol our streets. Once again, there's a word for this kind of job offer – cheap labour. Successful applicants will be offered 18-month contracts (obviously no pensions or perks) and an annual salary of only £20,020.
So there are jobs if you are prepared to work for £20 a week, or take a short-term contract with no prospects. The same men who are moaning that young people lack "essential skills" have placed more people than ever on short-term contracts, with millions working fewer hours than they would like. Moaning about attitudes disguises the fact that most employers are trying to drive down labour costs by legal means and aren't investing sufficiently in training and mentoring to help the young.
A class act
I've enjoyed Paul O'Grady's BBC1 series Working Class Britain: he was passionate, knowledgeable and partisan – everything you could possibly want from a presenter. Yes, there were the odd stunts that seemed corny, like pretending to go down a mine (which is now a museum), but his interview with the man who organised the boycott of the buses in Bristol because they wouldn't employ black people was truly moving. For once, ordinary men and women occupied centre stage, and weren't demeaned or patronised. A valuable piece of social history, produced by the Open University.
We might be seduced into wanting to eat melons all year round, but why do we have to grow them in England? Morrisons and the Co-op are taking delivery of the first melons produced on a farm near Canterbury in Kent, grown in polytunnels that housed strawberries earlier in the season.
Kent produces some fantastic fruit without the need for acres of plastic or greenhouses. This has been the last week for cherries, and the first plums are very tasty. Huge warehouses on Thanet produce tomatoes and peppers, but why do we crave stuff that's grown more easily abroad? Melons are dirt cheap on the Continent – why is British better? Let's promote our own greengages and damsons and wonderful apples, and stop any more lovely countryside being covered in plastic.
Mary Beard is a highly respected academic and presenter of BBC ancient history programmes, but why does she feel the need to opine on Twitter about issues that aren't worthy of her attention? Last week she ensured maximum media coverage by whingeing that the new M&S campaign didn't feature any women with grey hair. I could complain that it didn't cast me (as a high-profile crumblie) – but honestly, why bother? She says Marks & Spencer isn't reflecting the real world because there's no grey hair (except for Helen Mirren's subtle streaks) on show. I don't think dyeing your hair is a sellout, or an indicator you are a traitor to your sex. Mary seems a little too keen to comment on trivia for my taste.
Building Design magazine has launched its poll to find the ugliest building in the UK, for the Carbuncle Cup, named in honour of Prince Charles's remarks about modern architecture.
On the long list (but sadly not one of the final six) is the Shard, by Renzo Piano. The Shard deserves the award, because of the unattractive space around the base of the building, plus the fact the owners have the cheek to charge £24.95 (!!) for visitors (and £18.95 per child) to go to the viewing platform, as if they were offering a major cultural experience. The Eiffel Tower is the same height and costs £12.50, and the Empire State Building, which is higher, £17.
The worst thing about the Shard is what is represents – the rush to build ugly penis substitutes in central London, none of which have any sex appeal. Another repulsive bit of willy architecture (on a smaller scale) on the shortlist is the Redcar Beacon, originally known as the Vertical Pier. It's a feeble version of the horrible tower Anish Kapoor foisted on the Olympics – only this time, the metal ribbons that wrap around the building are purely decorative. Real piers are elegant. This is pedestrian.
Should Ukip member Godfrey Bloom stand down as MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber? I hope women who live in his constituency will study his latest set of politically incorrect observations. Last month he complained about aid going to Bongo Bongo Land, and now he opines that women are different from men because only the female sex cares about leaving the toilet seat up or leaving wet towels on the bed. He displays an asinine ignorance of women's role in history, claiming that in spite of years of training in art and music, and "significant leisure time in the 18th and 19th centuries, they have produced few great works". What about Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley and the Brontës? Godfrey Bloom is a disgrace to the people he represents. What an oaf.Reuse content