Thursday, November 17, 2011
Dole not Coal
I first went to South Yorkshire during the big wave of pit closures of the early 1990s, and I’ve been back a few times since. The miners fought the closures and lost. “Coal not Dole” was their rallying cry, but the collieries were bulldozed back into green fields. Now, in their place, stand tin shed-style warehouses and call centres offering small numbers of jobs at the minimum wage. In the intervening years some new, high tech, manufacturing has established itself, but nothing providing the large-scale employment required to make up for the huge job losses of the last 30 years.
Successive governments have made only token gestures. One in four young people in Barnsley and Doncaster are NEETs (not in employment, education or training), one of the highest rates in the country. Last week I visited three inventive social enterprises providing training and apprenticeships (picture below). Even they have been hit by cuts in Education Maintenance Allowance and abolition of the Future Jobs Fund. And in these austere times, employability is no guarantee of employment. Life was hard in the former coalfields long before the current recession – and it’s likely to get worse. This set of images - work in progress – is a partial record of some of the changes.