New hope on the New Deal

April 10, 1998

Carl Reid graduated from Stoke-on-Trent College last year with an HND in media studies. He also graduated with "thousands of pounds" of student debt, and poor job prospects in an overcrowded graduate recruitment sector.

At 21-years-old, he returned to his home in Sheffield, moved back in with his parents, and quickly slumped into a vicious circle of job applications and rejection letters.

He had been signing on for about seven months, living on Pounds 39-a-week Job Seekers' Allowance, until the government's New Deal for the young, long-term unemployed was introduced as a pathfinder pilot in Sheffield.

"I had plenty of interviews," he said, "but nothing came of them." He wanted to use his media studies qualification, "perhaps move into TV work", he said, but the jobs he wanted were simply not available.

He was looking for something to make him stand out from legions of hopeful graduates. He noticed an advert in his local paper for a drop-in centre for the unemployed, the Darnall Music Factory. It was offering a range of courses in all aspects of the music industry: sound engineering, music technology, the music industry, and performance. On top of that, it offered employment skills courses for the unemployed, including information technology.

"Music was one of the areas of media I didn't cover in my HND," said Mr Reid. "It seemed to be the perfect complement to the qualification I already had."

But at the time, further education was out - under the rules of the Job Seekers' allowance, study for more than 16 hours a week would cost him his benefit.

But under the New Deal, his options changed. Three months ago, Mr Reed was called in to his local job centre to meet his new Employment Service mentor.

He was reluctant to take up one of the subsidised full-time jobs because he feared it would render his HND worthless and steer him into a non-media job. So he told his mentor about the Darnall Music Factory.

Luckily the factory was affiliated to Sheffield College, which had won the contract from Sheffield Employment Service to provide the education and training options of the New Deal. He was immediately signed up to its introduction to the music industry course, an open college accredited course equivalent to a level-one NVQ. "I feel I've got new hope," he said. "I've got six months to complete the basic course, and the factory has got excellent contacts with the industry."

Next week, as part of his course, Carl is helping to organise and promote a dance night at the local community centre. He now wants to be a disc jockey.

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