Yes Minister review – let’s plant some trees!

Yes Minister review – let’s plant some trees!

How to make a million is a plea to policy makers and practitioners to resist the temptation of the myopic focus – only – on youth unemployment at the expense of adult worklessness.

In “How to make a million jobs – a charter for social enterprise” social entrepreneur Colin Crooks draws on his considerable personal and professional experience to make a powerful plea for an intelligent debate and a conversation which explores the multifaceted layers of the beast called unemployment.

The author emphasises the need for ‘social employability skills’ which cannot really be taught in the class room but require experience and in work support. The book emphasises that counter to prevailing views, low pay and insecure jobs increasingly require high levels of basic numeracy, literacy and even higher levels of communications skills.

In spearheading a new approach to looking at unemployment, under-employment and skills, Colin Crooks effectively shows that the trickledown effect has had very little sustained impact on improving employment in regions of high deprivation.

However, policy makers want hard figures: not the kind of figures which says what hasn’t worked, but they want guarantees that any new approach will work. They want to know how scalable is this really?

With examples from Onyx and Pickfords, Colin expertly shows that it’s not only about the employee but it’s also about the conditions of work. Central to the author’s journey is the realisation that the ‘motion’ of work is critically important: pay, is important but so is the sensitising process which informs the experiential hand down of skills and learning which is so important to informing and supporting the next generation.

One feels that this is a book about empowerment and the ability to dream. It’s about being aware and honest about what hasn’t worked, but it also provides solutions that whilst empowering our individuals and the community at large, it is also about being tough. When an employee doesn’t work out, you let them go!

The author makes the very sobering point that we forget people once they have gone through the system but we ought to be as concerned about those who have already left school without qualifications as those just entering the system. Colin Crooks calls for reparation and an acknowledgement that only by supporting, re-skilling and employing parents will there be better outcomes for the children.

What can government do?  they can ensure that policies support and encourage social entrepreneurs to create jobs. What can corporates do? They can make real investments by giving contracts to enterprises in deprived areas.

The author however needs to fully unpack and explore his assumptions in this area. How many social entrepreneurs are there, why would a local authority or central government take the risk of contracting with new social entrepreneurs? Highlighting historic failures or problems in the system and deficiencies in contract delivery are insufficient catalysts for this change to come about. Clearly if nothing else, history has shown us that the eradicating of poverty is not a  sufficient driving force: what therefore is the compelling reasons to adopt the approach of the author?

How to make a million is a significant contribution to the debate, it is replete with real examples of individuals who have made the transition, any reader will see that Colin has truly gone to the coal face and found a very precious gem. However the book has sidestepped the political and ideological driving forces which sit between, betwixt and over-arches all decisions are made. To my mind, the figures and statistics presented don’t unequivocally prove the authors point and therefore does not lead directly to his conclusions. Notwithstanding this, let’s plant some trees!

Dr Floyd Millen


Yes Minister