(also known as Bring your child's teacher to work day)
I've just spent two days at the New Types of Worker conference in Glasgow "Excellent Out Of Adversity". The keynote speakers were excellent – in fact everyone was excellent!
The Health and Care Sector Skills Councils had invited the head of one of the other sector skills councils: Jack Matthews of the Improve Food & Drink Skills Council. Not only was he very passionate, not only was he very funny, but he made a lot of very important points, entirely relevant to the enormous combined workforce in health and social care (over 2 million).
Jack shared with us that the Food & Drink industry has an image problem. Schoolchildren just don't want to come and work in the sector, they don't want to "work in a canning factory". Gone are the days when young adults would look starry eyed towards careers in Nestlé, Mars, Kellogg's; the Food & Drink sector is seen in a very different light at the moment.
That’s funny – another keynote speaker pointed out that schoolchildren didn't want to work in social care – it was no longer seen as a profession providing the care of people who desperately needed it, now the job was seen as emptying bedpans. Same job (if anything, even more professional, and certainly better paid relative to other work), but the perceptions have changed.
I suppose the starting point is to work out where these low perceptions come from. Unfortunately, the finger of blame seems to point towards schools and school teachers(!) Children and young adults are brought up with the idea that many of these jobs are somehow less than they appeared to previous generations. Dads and Mums still work in their careers proudly, and many sectors remain so specialised that the children's parents will stay in one sector for life. But schools that used to churn out eager members of society ready to be molded to one or other industrial or commercial sector, now turn out adolescents who want a big salary for only doing the interesting bits, and prepared to stay at home rather than take on a job with unfulfilling parts. Whatever is going on, it needs to be put right.
At one time, companies wanted to give children an early taste of what their industry consisted of, and invited them in to see what was going on. It gave a parent the chance to introduce their children to the reality of the day-to-day work so vital for Britain's success. Perhaps because the "job for life" doesn't exist any more, this has become less common. And with parents working longer and longer hours and spending less and less time with children at those formative times when they think about study options and future careers, teachers become the main arbiters of children's attitudes. The teaching environment is very different (children tend to need controlling – employees tend to need empowering, and so on) and the sad reality is that schools and universities fail to turn out people suitable for commerce, for industry, and for public sector and third sector jobs (as predicted by Lyotard 1984). So perhaps we now need teachers with experience of the attitudes, of the pride, and of the hurly-burly and ups and downs of the kinds of jobs that their pupils will find usually themselves in.
How many companies are ready to invite teachers at local schools into the organisation for a week or a month, to shape these attitudes? How many proud parents, instead of taking their child to work, would take their child's teacher to work? Is this the answer, or am I unnecessarily maligning teachers and schools?