Career Stuff

The London Bias

Why are there fewer opportunities up North?

Last year I had a pretty amazing job with a lot of responsibility. I really enjoyed it, though I’ll admit it was an adjustment to have so much new stuff to learn and figure out. I like keeping busy so it was a welcome challenge for the most part. However after a while I realised I was getting a bit burnt out. Mostly due to the commute, and general London-ness (I wrote more about that here) I decided that when an opportunity opened up to leave I would take it. Further fueled by plans to move in with J, and the hope of finally figuring out the whole freelance thing as a viable option, I leapt.

Two months later I’m still looking for work to tide me over/supplement my income so I can purse writing but also pay the bills and not die. It’s not that there are no jobs out there at all. There are a lot of different roles when I search online for ‘jobs in Preston’ the problem is the lack of graduate level jobs. I’m not turning my nose up at retail or other low skilled jobs, those type of jobs are incredibly valuable in keeping society running. If we didn’t have shop assistants or baristas then we wouldn’t be able to buy clothes or grab a morning latte

(actually I think baristas might be magicians or angels – they make the delicious coffee happen. If you’re a barista THANK YOU) ❤

but it’s fair to say those types of job aren’t for everyone. In fact, I truly admire and respect those who work in retail, as I know I couldn’t do it for any length of time more than a few months without becoming an anxious stressed out ball. It’s great that there are retail jobs around, though even those are a lot less up here, and if it’s term time you’ve got almost no chance of finding one in Preston city centre as they’re all snatched up by students! The issue I have is the fact that for career progression in any other disciplines; journalism, media, the youth sector, finance etc, the opportunities are few and far between. Even when you do find them, they often pay pretty poorly compared to the capital. I know that the  cost of living is higher in London, but there is still a definite bias towards grads and young people taking up internships and jobs in the big city compared to the rest of the country.

I came across an ad the other day for an apprenticeship in Manchester – arguable the capital of the North West. The job description read like a grad position, and it was a 40 hour work week, yet the pay was just £132 a week. That’s barely enough to cover lunch and travel, never mind pay rent. For young people not living with family, it’s a huge barrier, and can mean the difference between getting their foot on the career ladder or having to take a low skilled job elsewhere in order to survive and pay the bills. Having been in London for the past 5 years I think I was a bit blind to this – there are always opportunities available somewhere in the capital to ‘break into’ your chosen career. The further North you go, the less opportunities there seem to be, and it’s a growing problem. It’s a vicious cycle: young people move down to London as that’s where the jobs are, so less jobs are created in other regions, so more people leave to find work.

I’m lucky that I have connections and options to help me find work and get opportunities for myself.

Many young people aren’t so lucky up here, and those are the ones who are being left behind. Often graduates and other young people looking for work simply can’t afford to take the low paying (or unpaid) internship which would give them a foot on the career ladder. They take any job they can find which will allow them to survive, then become trapped in a cycle of low skilled work with little hope for progression. It’s ridiculous really that the government trumpets their creation of more apprenticeships whilst the people they’re supposedly helping are ending up worse off because of the prohibitive cost of undertaking one.

The UK has reached it’s highest rate of employment since records began according to The Telegraph, but how does that translate for young people, and for skilled and grad level jobs? According to another article, the people most affected by being either unemployed or underemployed (working less hours than you want, or in a low skilled job when you are qualified to do a higher level of work) are those aged 18-24. It comes as little surprise to me, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the truth of it. With London holding nearly 10 times more jobs than other major UK cities according to Huffpost, it’s little wonder young people outside the capital feel left out. Amid calls for more powers to be devolved to cities to help tackle the problem, it feels like little is actually happening to help young people across the country right now.

I don’t know what exactly the solution is for The North, or even for me really. I’ve just written my first paid article which I’m hoping will lead to bigger things, and I’m also working on my novel. In the mean time I’ll just keep looking for those elusive jobs, keep writing, and try to keep positive.

6 thoughts on “The London Bias”

  1. To be fair, apprenticeships are a bit of a misnomer when it comes to salary.

    The salary is permitted to be low, because the apprentice takes part in compulsory training, normally at a college, and is assessed on the job.

    In that sense, the pay is a bonus compared to those solidly learning, though I do agree businesses should value their learners more than the min apprentice wage (which is slowly increasing, thankfully).

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    1. Thanks for your input Chris! I agree that it’s difficult with apprenticeships – but I’d argue as they’re often meant as an alternative to university then young people should be similarly helped with living costs. If the apprenticeship including learning is 40 hours a week then there’s little time to have any other jobs as well!
      Have you got any personal experience of apprenticeships?

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      1. Not personally, no, but one of my design customers is a training provider and my girlfriend is a digital marketing apprentice assessor, visiting students in the workplace.

        You make a good point though, in my mind apprenticeships were instead of college, so money is less of an issue, whereas as you say, they go up to 24 now.

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  2. I completely agree. I’m in a relatively small town 70 miles north on London and there’s no skilled job vacancies. Admittedly I didn’t go uni but I went college to do animal management and wanted to get my foot in the door in the animal industry but there just isn’t anything available. Even if I wanted to volunteer, they all seem to be based in London. (Probably why my town is popular to live in as a commuter).
    My boyfriend finished Uni last summer and he struggled too. He managed to get a temporary job with someone running his own web design business but even now (6 months later) it’s not permanent. It’s not making me feel very secure when we’re trying to save to buy a house.

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    1. Sorry to hear about your struggles lovely! I just don’t understand why so much industry and business is based in London when people live all over the country… Best of luck with your career and keep on searching – I’m sure something will come up 🙂

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