Rowena Arshad Challenges Audience to Focus on Workplace Issues for Young People

Chic Lidstone and Rowena Arshad, Workplace Memorial Lecture in Dundee April 2016
Chic Lidstone and Rowena Arshad
On Friday lunch time 27 May, Rowena Arshad, Head of Moray House School of Education,University of Edinburgh, delivered the Workers' Memorial Day Lecture at The Steeple Church in Dundee.

The purpose behind International Workers' Memorial Day has always been to "remember the dead: fight for the living" focusing on remembering all those killed through work but at the same time ensuring that such tragedies are not repeated.

This was especially poignant on the day following the death of a construction worker in an incident on the Queensferry Crossing, the new £1.4bn bridge being built across the Firth of Forth. Before the lecture, Industrial Chaplain Chic Lidstone led a one minute silence to remember those that had died at work or whose lives had been foreshortened by occupational disease.

Dr Arshad's lecture was entitled, "Taking Control for Life and Work:
Young People Need to be Part of the Policies and Spaces that Shape Their Tomorrow".

She certainly challenged us to think critically about young people and their preparation for entering the world of work work. I was particularly struck by two of the issues she raised. The first was the current trend, following the Wood Report, to enhance the "workplace readiness" of young people in our schools. She suggested that this was predominantly an employers' agenda. She wondered whether, in our schools, there was any awareness raising about health and safety and trade unions. The second was the age discrimination inherent in the minimum wage for young workers whose minimum hourly wage rate is governed by their age and not by what they can do.

I shall certainly be following the issues Dr Arshad raised with Michael Wood, Dundee's Executive Director of Children and Families' Service (not the Wood of the Wood Reports by the way.)

Dr Rowena Arshad is Head of Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh and Co-Director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland. She has a particular interest in equity and anti-discrimination issues and how these issues are taken forward in education. She was the Equal Opportunities Commissioner for Scotland from 2001 to 2008 and was awarded the OBE for services to race equality in Scotland.