Opinion

Chris Grayling's "hire a hoodie" comments are misguided

3 min read

25 April 2012

The Employment Minister's comments that bosses should "hire a hoodie" and turn "surly men into motived young employees" miss the point. Preparing kids for the workplace must start at school.

Chris Grayling last week announced that companies should “hire a hoodie” to tackle the UK jobs crisis. The employment minister wants bosses to prioritise local youths who look “unwilling to work” over Eastern Europeans. 

Amid the cries of positive discrimination and unfortunate comparisons to Gordon Brown’s infamous “British Jobs for British Workers” pledge, Grayling has put undue pressure on employers. He’s placing the responsibility for creating a skilled workforce and solving the country’s future economic challenges solely in the laps of businesses.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge advocate of apprenticeships and I’m proud that I have taken people into my business and helped develop them into talented and skilled individuals. However, all of the people I’ve employed – from apprentices through to 90-odd-year-olds – have one thing in common: motivation.

Grayling says that “surly young men can be turned into excited and motivated young employees”. But his comments miss the point that preparing kids for the workplace has to start from day one – not from when they are given their first job. 

Parents, schools, colleges, career advisers and Jobcentre staff all have a role to play before these guys even consider filling in a job application. Making sure “surly young men” understand the benefits (no pun intended) of having a career is a “hearts and minds” job that should not just be given to employers.

We can help by offering work-experience schemes and supporting, as I do, causes such as The Prince’s Trust. But we certainly can’t do it all.

Grayling’s comments about local recruits versus “older and more experienced workers from Eastern European” also reignited the nationalistic debate over where our workforce should come from.

I don’t care if someone is from Brixton, Beirut or Belgrade. If they can turn up on time, show passion for the job and be willing to constantly improve themselves, they’ve got a good chance of getting a job with me.

There’s a fine line between doing what is deemed “right” for the country’s long-term future and being able to keep a business running.

As much as I’d like to believe in Grayling’s ideal-world scenario, sending me broke ain’t going to help the economy.

Charlie Mullins grew up on an estate in South London and left school with no qualifications. He started Pimlico Plumbers in 1979, after completing a four-year plumbing apprenticeship. The company employs 150 professional plumbers and turns over more than £16m a year.