In the Guardian on 4th February, there was an article which asked ‘Is Our Addiction to Education creating the Wrong Type of Jobseekers?’ This commentary revealed a worrying statistic about the record number of people unemployed in the 16-24 year age bracket. This comes at a time when course fees are about to go up for the academic year starting in September 2012.
Reports show that applications for Fine Art Courses have dropped considerably as people can’t afford to pursue subjects that do not lead to solid job prospects.
Is the cost of a degree today, for British nationals, putting us under more pressure when we enter the workplace? Is the type of work that we undergo in a degree making the type of jobs that need doing seem under-challenging in comparison to the work we do on our degrees?
Is academic study, rather than practice in an actual employment, giving us false illusions about how we can earn money? Is there too much stigma attached to claiming benefits while we find the way to earn money in something that interests us and uses our education?
Recently, I watched the Ken Loach film ‘Kes’ in which Billy Casper goes to see his employment officer. Casper is 15 years old and doesn’t want to reveal his newfound hobby of falconry to the man on the other side of the desk who wants to help him find a job.
Casper is far too worried about whether his ‘brother’ Jud has taken his anger towards Casper out on his pet bird ‘Kes’ to pay any attention to the advice the officer is trying to offer him.
Meanwhile, his English teacher is taking an interest in Casper’s falconry hobby, which has been learnt through Casper’s own research via the book he stole.
Set in the North of England in the 1970s, Kes gives us an interesting contrast between the expectations of a young man leaving school at 15 during times of high unemployment in the 1970s (at a time when technical colleges could train him to be an electrician and apprenticeships still existed) and someone leaving education today.
Today, in 2012, there is record unemployment, especially amongst the 16-24 age group. Student loans allow the graduate to delay making repayments until they earn enough. However, these loans are likely to take years if not decades to repay.
Perhaps the whole education and employment situation in this country needs a holistic review. What are the opportunities for people who are skilled and talented in practical types of work to prepare themselves sufficiently for earning an income? As recently as the 1980s, educational psychologists believed that only the top 5% (on whatever criteria this was assessed) were advised to do A’levels.
I read an interview with Kath Kidston who said that while other people were at university, she was earning £100 a week in retail which she had to have ‘fun’ with and ‘buy things’ (what are these? See any magazine to find out).
What would happen to our economy if young people had more chance to have fun and explore the world before they entered the world of financial responsibility? Perhaps ‘having fun’ without all the pressures young people seem to face today, may result in less headless drinking, drug taking and other escapist vices.
I’d love to hear any thoughts as this is just a viewpoint and exploration of the theme.