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National Service Proposals 2024

Image by Hannah Busing

The proposal to introduce an element of National Community Service for young people has been widely represented as “a return to military conscription”. It is not!

Far too often I meet young people with good academic qualifications – GCSEs or even degrees – who are unable to gain employment because they have `no experience`. This is a `Catch 22 situation - no experience, no job; no job, no experience! By using National Community Service in an even-handed and non-discriminatory way I believe that we can help to break that circle,

provide references, and give a lot of employment-disadvantaged young people the foot in the door that they need.

But let us be clear about what National Community Service is not. First and foremost, it is not a back-door way of compelling young people to join one of the armed forces or to prepare ourselves to “fight in another pointless bankers war” as one constituent emotively described it. Today`s armed forces are specialised, highly skilled and very heavily dependent upon technology. The last thing that they want or need is a lot or young `pressed men` or women cluttering up the barracks! While there will, therefore, be opportunities for a very limited number of volunteers to choose to experience military life and while it is highly possible that some may like what they see and choose to remain the vast majority will select civilian options of which there will be many to choose from.

I do not believe that it is an imposition to ask school leavers to give one weekend a month for twelve months to the community via, say, the police or ambulance or some other national or charitable service. Nor do I see that such service is likely to interfere with University studies or apprenticeships or sport or social life. And if at the end of the `course ` there is a piece of paper that says that `this young woman ( or man) was impressive` then that can only send out a signal to a potential employer that the applicant is worthy of at least an interview and serious consideration for the job.

It does not surprise me in the slightest that the Prime Minister`s suggestion has been either deliberately mis-represented or greeted with howls of anguish from the usual media suspects but from the privilege and vantage point of the Chairmanship of the TryAngle Awards Foundation I have a very clear idea of what young people can achieve when they are given the opportunity to do so . If a short spell of National Community Service, albeit a requirement, can help to open doors onto a better future then while it is a policy that will clearly need fine-tuning and development it is one that I am prepared to support.

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