Connor Short is the Youth Coordinator for the Toryworkers and a recent graduate from the University of Salford. He writes in a personal capacity based on his recent experience as a student and young graduate.
Voter turnout amongst the 18-24 age range has risen to its highest level since 1992. With Ipsos Mori claiming 62% of young voters voted Labour, but only 27% voted Conservative, now is the time to listen to students & recent graduates and seek to solve their issues with the current system. For students, there are very few intentions greater than that to establish themselves onto a career path. However, large numbers of students are leaving education with no clear direction and unsure of which ladder to step onto. So, to win over the youth vote and convince them to lend their vote to the Conservatives at the next election, we must address this key issue. To begin, we must draw school and college leavers’ attention towards all the options they can choose for their next step. For instance, thousands of pounds are being spent by each university, every year, to encourage students to join them, ahead of other options. However, in many cases, university is not the most suitable option for the student’s goals. But, they are still more likely to choose a university course because they have not been told to entertain the idea of doing an apprenticeship, a degree apprenticeship, or even jumping into a job at the lower end of their desired career. All of which, may provide more contacts that can help kick start a career and often provide a student with greater career motivation, than the option of university.
Universities will always remain to be a very good option to extend education for many students. However, more regulation needs to be introduced. From my own experience, a cap on the number of students each course can accept each year, would be massively beneficial. I continue to hold a strong belief that my tuition, during my time at university, suffered due to the overwhelmingly excessive quantity of students on my course (Estimated at over 200 on a single course, in a single year). Many of whom dropped out or left for a different course, citing the lack of care and tuition they received.
The one time I had access to a personal tutor, I was told “don’t get a job, you’re on a full-time course”. Those words rang clearly for the remainder of my time as a student. And, therefore, provided a problematic knock-on effect when it came to using my contacts to get onto a solid career path. It is this experience that convinces me that we need to re-define what a full-time course means. We must push universities to be clear that full-time courses should be attended alongside efforts to establish a career, rather than instead of it.
Apart from that one moment of terrible advice, I did feel like a personal tutor helped me on my course. I would even go as far as saying we need to introduce Personal Career Tutors to everyone over the age of 16 and integrate the National Careers Service more closely with further and higher education. These tutors would provide a one-to-one meeting with each current/former student every six months to provide them with clear, personal advice for how they can progress their career over the next six months. These should continue beyond education, until the former
student reaches a salary threshold and gets settled into a career, similar to the model used for student loan repayments. With students being nurtured into achieving a salary above the threshold for student loan repayments, we can expect more former students to repay more of their student loans. Of course, I understand some former students would deem these meetings to be a nuisance, so I would also recommend allowing students the option to opt out of the service.
All of these suggestions stem from my own experiences. And, after listening to the politically fuelled complaints of youth voters throughout my time at university, I must stress that failure to listen to students’ issues and, most importantly, provide solutions, will ultimately lead to a risk in promoting Labour into government at the next election. An outcome which came far too close for comfort just a few months ago. However, listening to students and successfully providing solutions to their issues, may even lead to an upsurge in Conservative youth voters. After all, we once thought of Scotland as a Labour stronghold, until Ruth Davidson orchestrated an increase in the Conservative vote. There’s nothing to suggest we can’t do the same to turn our fortunes around and increase the Conservative vote amongst youth voters. Perhaps, even as soon as the next election.