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Jamie's Right - Youngsters Need to Toughen Up

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I can't agree more with the idea that's being pitched, that one good way - and possible the only short-term method - of fighting back against the UK's chronic skills shortage, is for companies, particularly small ones, to take it upon themselves to train their own staff.

It's as basic a problem as has ever been faced. Need a job doing right? Do it yourself, and in this case that means beg borrow or steal the best ingredients you can (like Jamie Oliver used to say 'best you can get' in his early Naked Chef shows) and do your best to make them into something good.

The biggest problem with that approach is that a few good meals got cooked, but ultimately not enough people were trained in healthy eating and cooking.

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Next thing you know the Naked Chef has to front a government sponsored national school dinners campaign to improve eating and cooking habits at grass roots level. And now that's what we need to do with job skills!

Interestingly I see that Jamie is back in the headlines again this week talking all about how migrants are tougher than British workers, and that without imports his kitchens and dining rooms would be empty.

He's right of course, well sort of.

But what he actually is saying is that people with the gumption to come from far away to make a better life for themselves are tougher than those Brits who have been showered with state handouts for most of their lives.

For me, it's a no brainer - a hungry man will always be tougher than one living off the fat of the land.

There are tough Brits, plenty of us, some work for me, and I'm sure some work for Jamie. But it's just that, as I've been saying for ages, there aren't enough of them to do all the jobs that we have.

This is why Jamie and I both employ foreign workers in our businesses, and that's why we love them. They are hungry to succeed.

If we want to change this situation then we need a combination of carrot and stick, and that means taking away the social crutch of benefits to all but the genuinely needy.

It also means providing a nationally coordinated and funded apprenticeship programme to get businesses the workers they need for the sake of the future of the nation, and with a bit of luck that'll harden them up a bit too.

This is something I've long been calling for. We need a proper scheme in this country where the Government pays Job Seeker's Allowance directly to the employer, which the employer could then use as a salary for an apprentice. I am a huge fan of apprenticeships, they are a fantastic opportunity for school leavers and should be seen as a genuine alternative to university.

Speaking from experience, working as an apprentice plumber in the freezing cold all day certainly helped me understand the meaning of a hard day's graft.

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