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UKFast takes the right steps to help the next generation

The move by UKFast to help its graduates pay off some of their student loans has got the thumbs up from Billy MacInnes

It must be tough to be young today. I know that parents and older generations tend to think the youth of today have a cushy number – just as their parents and grandparents thought they did – but it doesn’t seem like it from where I’m standing.

Just look at the pressures and burdens being imposed on them. Huge student debt from tuition fees, house prices that make home ownership a pipe dream for many, sky high rents, unpaid internships that close the door on too many careers for too many, no job security and unrewarding zero hours contracts for so many jobs that undermine their whole justification for going to university in the first place.

Then there’s the fact they’re the first generation in many years to have a lower standard of living than their parents and they’re going to have to work longer than their parents and retire on less generous pensions. Oh, and to cap it all, Brexit threatens to slam the door on their chances of living and working in most of Europe.

And we haven’t even touched on automation and AI and what that means for their future working lives.

So, no, they don’t have it easy. Will anything be done to correct the generational imbalance? Who knows? There seems little, if any, impetus from politicians, economists or business to make the wholesale changes necessary to reverse the trend towards casualisation, low pay, job insecurity and reduced public services.

The current furore over whether Jeremy Corbyn pledged to scrap the tuition fee debts of graduates shows there is very little willingness to try and make life easier for students. The opposition to the Labour party pledge to abolish tuition fees – mirroring a policy introduced in Scotland by the SNP in 2007 – also demonstrated the lack of political consensus over how to try and mitigate the burden on the younger generation.

Against this backdrop, there’s some small comfort to be gleaned from individual actions that do something to try and make life easier for the younger generation. Particularly if those individuals are business people. So I have to admit to being very impressed to hear of UKFast’s £1m scheme to help students in its graduate recruitment scheme to pay off as much as £2,000 of their loan in their first two years of employment at the company.

While £2,000 might not be much when put against overall tuition fee debts of £27,000, it’s better than nothing. Even better was that UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones didn’t mince his words when explaining why the company had launched the GradCASH scheme.

“These graduates are the first to be hit with tripled fees,” he stated. “In a world where I believe we should not have to pay for education, it’s up to anyone who can make a difference to do just that. We are in a fortunate position and as business leaders it makes perfect sense to invest in the next generation, both financially and with continuous training.”

Jones makes two important points. First, people should not have to pay for education because a well-educated populace provides tremendous benefits for society, for the economy and for business. Second, if people are forced to pay for education, business and employers have an obligation to give something back for the benefits gained from a well-educated workforce – as well as contributing towards the education of the next generation of workers.

When it comes to IT, there’s a lot of talk about connectivity and the network. All future trends point towards even more connectedness between people, devices and things, all interacting with each other, creating and exchanging data, contributing to the development of an ever-expanding digital universe. Why, then, do we expect our young people to live in a progressively more connected digital world at the same time as they inhabit an increasingly disjointed world where the connections in society that have been built up over generations become more and more fractured and disjointed?

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