EU referendum: Ignore the scare stories - Brexit could offer school-leavers a rare opportunity to get better jobs and wages or build their own business

 
Frances Dickens
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Students Throughout The UK Receive Their A Level Results
A standalone Britain could offer school-leavers a rare chance to flex their muscles (Source: Getty)

We are all trying to work out just what a Brexit would mean for us, whether we are concerned about our pension, how we run a business or the perennial issue of house prices.

But there is one group that may not have a voice come 23 June whose world could really be changed - the school-leaver.

Should they be fearful or optimistic? The remain campaign is definitely playing to the fear factor and underlining the threat Brexit poses to jobs, training opportunities and protection at work. Remember that letter from 36 FTSE100 leaders claiming Brexit would put jobs at risk? Or when Labour’s Alan Johnson warned that 50,000 manufacturing apprenticeships were at risk because they are dependent on exports to the UK.

A recent convert to the leave campaign, I disagree.

Yes, leaving the EU is a (much exaggerated) leap into the unknown and there may well be a short-term negative impact on jobs in certain sectors.

However I’m excited by the opportunity the UK has to take greater control its economic and political future, free from the hassle and expense of Brussels bureaucracy. But would Brexit be good news for school leavers seeking jobs?

It's impossible to know fully, but a standalone Britain could offer them a rare chance to flex some muscle in three areas.

1. Demand better quality apprenticeships

The UK going it alone as an economic power will a requires a concerted drive on enhancing our competitivity and boosting our skills base. Estimates suggest that the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) worker deficit is currently over 40,000 a year. So isn’t it time we put this right?

Expect businesses and government to redouble efforts to develop apprenticeships that address these gaps, including the growth of degree level apprenticeships. But they need buy-in from their key consumers: the would-be apprentices themselves.

In a post-Brexit scenario, our young people represent a valuable resource who comprise UK plc’s future talent pipeline. They should exploit their position to demand a greater say in shaping apprenticeships that are not only fit for purpose from an employer/UK competitiveness point of view but which are both vocational and aspirational for those signing up to them.

2. Negotiate higher wages

Exiting the EU is likely to mean restrictions on immigration - a political hot potato which I’m not getting into here. From a purely economic standpoint, reduced immigration is likely to mean less competition for jobs and higher wages.

While this won’t necessarily be welcomed by employers like me, it’s potentially good news for those canny school-leavers who understand market economics and can leverage a better deal than the national living wage.

3. Set up their own businesses

Brexit will undoubtedly mean some chaos and myriad problems – initially at least. I’m hoping it will herald a dynamic new climate in which start-ups are freer to exploit the chaos, problem-solve and innovate without worrying whether their ideas comply with EU regulations.

There are no age restrictions on being entrepreneurial. If uni or apprenticeships don’t appeal, young people may feel empowered post-Brexit to follow the UK’s example and exert greater self-determination over their futures than they do under the status quo.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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