A Tory MP has been told to apologise after he claimed that many unemployed young people lack the "motivation" and practical skills to get a job, and should follow the example of a man who "busked for his train fare".
Appearing at a Channel 4 event for its Battlefront youth unemployment scheme alongside other MPs, Damian Collins suggested a lack of motivation and practical skills was to blame for many of the one million unemployed under-25s being out of a job.
Speaking on a debate panel with fellow MP Stella Creasy and former British Youth Council chairman Liam Preston, Collins claimed that students leaving school at 16 are worth more to employers than those who finish their A-Levels or go to university.
"A businessman I know told me: "I would much rather get a school leaver at 16. Get them to do an apprenticeship for two or three years. At 19 they will have the skills necessary to be able to enter the workforce on the national minimum wage. Someone who does a one year course after 18 won’t be ready," he said.
Collins told the panel that when he worked at advertising giant M&C Saatchi, a colleague had "busked to raise the train fare to get into London... until he got his break."
The Labour Party has called on Collins to apologise for his comments.
Former foreign secretary David Miliband, who was also at the event, said: "For the Tories to say 'don't bother getting an education, go out busking' – that is not a serious solution."
Liam Byrne, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said Collins' comments showed the Tory party to be "out of touch, out of ideas and frankly out of order."
“In the week when a cross-party Select Committee slammed the Government’s Youth Contract, it is a complete disgrace for a Tory A-lister to blame young people for his Government’s failure," Byrne said.
Ava Patel, a 23-year-old graduate and Huffington Post blogger, who is part of the Battefront scheme and attended the debate, told the Huffington Post UK that she believed Collins was "incorrect" to blame young people themselves.
"The vast majority of young people are doing everything they can," she argued.
Patel, a journalism graduate who spent two years struggling for full-time work before she joined the scheme, instead blamed a lack of support and help for young unemployed people.
"At the end of the day the competition out there and lack of opportunities for young people is putting us in quite a dire situation, especially when young people aren't even aware of help they can get," she told the Huffington Post UK.
Patel said there needs to a focus on "face-to-face interaction" and a system of mentors with young people and said the National Career Service, a government website and phoneline for job advice, is "nowhere near as good as it should be."
Vernon Coaker MP
Eye Spy MP