Monday, September 20, 2010

Learning to Labour

Some of you might recognize that this is the title of a 'classic' by Paul Willis.

It tells how working class boys learn to become working class and take on working class jobs.

We recently had a downstairs toilet refitted to make it easier for our aged visitors. It was put in single-handedly by a young man of 30 (30 is young to me now!) who originally came from Bosnia.

Us here in the UK are very familiar with the tea-drinking antics of workmen. A point not lost on the author of the The Yellow Tractor, for example.

But I was quite taken aback by how hard this young man worked. He was always on time. He never asked for tea or coffee unless I offered. I didn't even see him taking lunch (although I'd seen him drinking Red Bull twice). He cleaned up every day after he had finished.

He was meticulous. If something didn't go as planned (like finding a loose floorboard) he would check with me, suggested solutions, waited for approval and then acted on it.

He did not even turn his radio on until I went out to shop. I told him he was welcome to keep his radio on.

Then he told me how his father used to work for the same company. The company took him on as a much younger man. He knew nothing and did some labouring for them. Then he learned to do painting work (and he was meticulous with painting our walls).

I don't know how many years intervened but he is now able to fit bathrooms all by himself, from start to finish. If I owned a bathroom fitting company I will be very happy to employ him. If he had his own business I will not hesitate to recommend him.

This came amidst all the doom and gloom talk about cuts in government spending. And as I had pointed elsewhere (here and here) while millions are on benefits employers have to recruit from overseas to do the jobs that ARE available.

Two things stick out in his story. First he worked with his father. There was a father figure.

There had been many occasions when we needed work done in the house and contractors have brought their sons along, and/or later sent their sons back to do the work, and one electrician (who has a Masters degree) usually has an apprentice with him.

Again these young men are incredily well-mannered and did a magnificent job each time. They were trained by their fathers or mentors and their fathers/mentors can be very proud of them.

The second is he was willing to learn. It did not matter that he knew nothing, but there was a determination to earn his own wages. Conversely the company was willing to train him.

As we read of millions stuck in what is often termed (erroneously I think) as the "benefits trap" I can also imagine how a younger generation is learning NOT to labour because they have never seen their fathers and mothers labouring.

1 comment:

alex trumpe said...

Such an awesome blog! :-) I love it -- great post!


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