Climb-down over work trial couldn’t come soon enough

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Getting my foot on the career ladder relied solely on me doing many weeks of painful work placements.

That’s why I’m all for giving people the opportunity to learn the skills they need to get by in life.

All the placements I did were unpaid, so I don’t think there’s a fundamental problem in asking people to roll up their sleeves and get their hands stuck in for free.

Getting bawled at by the kind of barely-evolved male journalist you can still find lurking in the corner of some newsrooms wasn’t actually the highlight of my life.

Being treated like an inconvenient nuisance really didn’t leave me jumping for joy.

But it was a necessary evil. I needed to prove I had the ability to get off my backside and make things happen, and presenting a shiny portfolio of cuttings was my passport to journalism college.

It was the carrot being dangled in front of my still youthful-looking face. And anyone who wants to earn their crust in a specialised industry will know that all too well.

Yet there’s a big difference between giving people a useful work trial and treating our youngsters like an army of skivvies and slaves.

And despite trying to defend the indefensible, the government has finally understood that, prompting a climb-down over its own state-backed work experience scheme.

Docking the benefits of those 16 to 24-year-olds who dropped out of unchallenging and ultimately pointless eight-week placements was always wrong.

Even the employers involved could see that they no longer looked like philanthropists and were in danger of sounding more like evil overlords.

Of course sacrifices have to be made when you’re trying to establish your place in the world.

But asking people to work for free, with no hope of a paid job at the end of it, is like trying to hook a fish with a picture of dry land.

Work experience can be a means to an end.

The mistake the government made was in treating it like it was the end, rather than just the start of something better.