That job finished after the Christmas and New Year sales rushes and the next part time position was in a call centre. Now, this was not just any call centre; it was a call centre dealing with calls and enquiries not just from the general public but from supposedly highly-qualified professionals, highly regarded in their own eyes at least, but sometimes the most obnoxious, arrogant people you would wish to meet, some with an ego and sense of entitlement you would not believe. That gave our friend a totally different view, both of the general public, mostly pleasant and interesting and of the professional classes. Once again, mostly pleasant and competent, although many were neither.
As I write this, we have a new Prime Minister – aren’t politicians getting to look younger these days? But that apart, he seems from the point of view of a Brexiteer to be at least, for the first time in decades, optimistic and has some (or says he some) faith in Britain and the people. Which is great, let’s get cracking, motivate, build confidence and get industry working.
Well, much as I like the idea, I’m not sure how you are going to motivate an aging population that, in many cases, has never been in a competitive environment, millions having worked in the public service which, with the best will in the world, is not known for its enthusiasm or competitive, cutting edge thinking. It is known, though, for rules-based stultification of independent thinking which probably goes some way to explaining where we find ourselves now.
Industry at one time filled in every discipline with very skilled designers, engineers and workers who could not only produce ideas but could make the tools and produce the product. Take a look around at our one-time manufacturing areas now and see what has happened since we became a service economy. It’s not an encouraging sight.
For every young person who wants to be an engineer, designer, civil engineer, I.T and so on, there are many that want to do degrees in law, politics, archaeology, media, hospitality, tourism and all the others that don’t actually qualify you for anything. Take forensic science. Of the many people taking forensic science degrees these days only a few, a very few, will ever get a job working in a forensic department.
Nobody wants to get their hands dirty these days, and to be really honest how many are fit enough physically or mentally to do skilled engineering work? You don’t see that many young people starting in the dirty all-weather building industry, or civil engineering big project works, neither do you see many over 45.
Speak to anyone in large business they will tell you the same, most young people don’t want the tougher physical or mentally stretching jobs, they are not reliable, have time off at the drop of a hat and are more interested in social media than actual work.
You can see this attitude in many business and organisations. I suppose this comes from telling the population for decades – probably from the late sixties – that there was this sun-filled Nirvana we could reach if we only improved our education. All took degrees and made our public services and industrial base slimmer and more agile. Every job became a ‘profession’ because in the main nobody wanted to be seen as a worker. Accountants suddenly became business management consultants and strategy experts the results of which soon became evident as businesses amalgamated. ‘Big is beautiful’ was the mantra.
The personnel department became the Human Resources department, full of people who had no idea about the industry that they were employed in, full of notions of diversity, equality, employment law, this rule and that law, all mostly imported by the EU of course, and instead of being a management tool, along with accountants, started to rule the companies with the end result? Well, we can all see that.
Workers and management became demotivated, companies were sold for share-holder value, mostly to foreign investors who then took the profit to their home country or took the enterprise abroad where it can be made ‘cheaper.’
Shareholder value, best value, efficiency, down-sizing, the new buzz words until it became obvious – to a few at least – that we were living in a fool’s paradise; that the Ponzi schemes were going to crash, that big was not always best, that running the economy on credit, chasing ever cheaper goods and down-sizing companies, destroying the skills base of a nation for the profit of others, may not have been such a good idea at all. Now it seems that the world created by bankers and corporations and whizz kids is about to give some of us a shock, Deutsche Bank announcing eye-watering losses. How long can that house of cards, along with the euro, survive?
And here we are. Tens of thousands of skilled workers early retired. With a skills shortage in what is left of many industries, not to mention the Armed Services. There is now apparently a ‘new’ University of Engineering that is offering engineering degrees, but with a difference – students actually have to spend time being an engineer. What a fascinating idea! I’ve given some thought to what we could call that. I know: “Apprenticeship!” Where are they going to get ‘hands on’ experience, with much industry working with imported machine tools mostly automated and in companies employing less than 20 people, often owned by investors from China, India, and Germany. Please tell me where the skilled trainers are to be found. Were they not made redundant or early retired a while back? Once bitten, I can’t see them rushing back to the work place can you?
We now live in a country that many would say has lost its way, its confidence, its entrepreneurial spirit. A previous generation of young people who became leaders in research and many other disciplines seem to have been replaced by a generation of poorly-motivated risk averse people more interested in social media and the next ‘identity’ interest’ which is never ever going to put a meal on the table or a roof over their head. Man’s ‘hierarchical needs’ turned on its head it seems, until the money runs out. Then what?
This country is not going to be any better than the rest of the west until it rediscovers its motivation, innovation, skills along with the can-do work ethic.
“Would you like chocolate on that cappuccino?”
Photo by astro_matt