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Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Saturday, 1 September 2007 12:47 UK

Real Apprentices

By Vivian White
BBC Panorama reporter

Vivian and MJ call through the letterbox for Glen
"Morning Glen, this is your Panorama wake-up call"
Sir Alan Sugar offered his winning apprentice a six-figure salary and the chance to change their lives.

Panorama tonight meets four unemployed young men, and the prize for our "Real Apprentices" was one that could be equally transforming: simply improving their chances of getting any work at all, and helping to break the corrosive habit of unemployment.

This is Ben, one of the young people we met, talking about how unemployment affects him: "Eventually you just stop really caring so much... you get up, you go through the grind, you have your day, you go back to bed, you repeat - ad infinitum."

Michael-James, known as "MJ" is another. He lives with his Nan, and I asked her "What do you think unemployment's doing to your grandson?"

"Making him lazy," she replied; he was sat next to her as she repeated it, for emphasis. "Making him lazy."

From left to right: Tim, Ben, MJ and Glen
The Real Apprentices, left to right: Tim, Ben, MJ and Glen

They don't live in some unemployment black-spot, but in booming Swindon, in Wiltshire, famous for its wealth of jobs - workers commute here from miles around.

Yet it has its fair share of a national problem: Ben, and MJ and two others, Glen and Tim, are all "NEETS," official-speak for young people who are Not in Employment, Education, or Training.

Yes, the government cares a great deal about NEETS - but they haven't solved this problem. So we tried making a programme unlike any you've seen on youth unemployment before: we tried to help.

Ben walking towards the factory exit
Take it from us - there are some surprises in store
We told our four "candidates," two 18-year-olds and two 20-year-olds: "Here's a real job - a real vacancy, in the service sector; it's a new opportunity, it could be fun - now go for it: the employer will know that Panorama's unemployed four have put in for it- and whatever happens they'll talk to you about how well or badly you get on - and you might, just might, get a real job out of it."

And we set our four another challenge: "A day's work experience at a major manufacturing company with a small, but very well known product - again they'll talk through with you how you've done - now that couldn't do any harm... might even do you some good..."

No of course we're not going to tell you now how it all turns out - you'll have to watch. But take it from us - there are some surprises in store.

And we learned lots: about young people and the benefits system, for instance: "Dole dossers, that's what they call them, because they just sit on their arse and then just sponge off of the dole whatever "free money basically."

Who's that speaking? Some crusty old critic of the young?

No that's one of our four: "Of course I want to work," says Glen.

See what happens when we try to help him find it.

Panorama: Real Apprentices can be seen on BBC One at 2030 BST on Monday 3 September 2007

A successful interview
31 Jul 07 |  Panorama
Transcript - Real Apprentices
06 Sep 07 |  Panorama


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