This is a link to an image from the UK government’s current campaign aimed at raising the take-up of ‘modern apprenticeships’. This is a government subsidised training scheme which sees young people join a firm and do real work alongside a training component – in exchange for being paid a minuscule wage (currently £3.30 ph in the first year and rising to the national minimum wage after that [1]). It is the same kind of scheme as the 1980s ‘YTS’ scheme essentially. The characteristic of these schemes is that the tax-payer subsidies the training requirements of private companies – a good example of socialism being in favour when it subsidies capital.

The image is better when seen in the running advert on e.g. a news site – but I’ve linked to this page to ensure continuity.

One of the most noticeable aspects of the image is that women and people from ethnic minorities (including the now typical ‘edge case’ black person) are represented significantly in excess of their proportions in the work-place. This, of course, is done as a kind of positive discrimination. No doubt the senior civil servants and government minister who signed off on the campaign see this as being progressive. About breaking down stereotypes and so on. But. Wait. Notice that both the black men are sporting shiny watches. (This is much more obvious in the large size rendition of this image in the ads themselves). The gentleman on the right is sporting a watch which has been re-touched to positively shout ‘gold watch LOOK’. The one in the middle appears to be cradling his. We can’t miss it.

So. The question is; if they are really so progressive why are they simply repeating a stereotype that young black men are only going to be interested in this type of scheme if they can see it as a passport to bling? This writer has worked alongside quite a few young black men in his career (first in administration and then in software development) and not one of them appeared to be in the slightest bit motivated by bling.




Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer