Career advice for kids? Are you mad?

Schools will soon prepare children for the workplace. Prepare for an army of Firemen Sam

By Simon Round, November 12, 2009

By the time you read this column I will have gone through one of the most terrifying experiences known to humankind.

Right up there with scaling Everest, confronting the contents of those scary jars of gefilte fish and finding a spider in the bath, is… The School Parents’ Evening.

Somehow, sitting and waiting to see the teacher has never lost its power to strike fear in my heart.

This time, it will not just be my daughter Lucy’s tendency to put the other children off by being silly we will be discussing (no idea where she gets that from).

According to a recent government report, children are going to receive careers guidance from the age of seven. So chances are I will soon be chatting to Miss Cooper about Lucy’s prospects in the workplace.

A grown-up palaeontologist wouldn’t leave his dinosaurs in a pile in his room at bedtime

The good news is that Lucy has already given the matter plenty of thought. Her original plan was to be a journalist. Then she discovered that writing for the papers actually involved, er, writing things down, at which point her enthusiasm waned substantially.

So she wondered whether, rather than be a journalist, she might watch animated films professionally. There were, I had to inform her, very few openings in that field.

Since then, she has come up with a new plan — she is going to be an artist. She loves drawing and she shows a bit of promise but she has yet to crystallise this into a solid plan of action.

She hasn’t got a CV together, she has failed to get that application off to art school (what with the recent disruption to the post it could well take 10 years to arrive), so how does she expect to get a job?

And then there is the fact that at seven years and three months, Lucy is still prevaricating over whether she would like to be a graphic designer, a commercial artist or paint caricatures in Leicester Square — I despair of the younger generation sometimes.

Thinking about it, the employment market would look very different if children really were pinned down to a career at the age of seven.

I imagine that the Fire Service would be deluged with applications and that First Capital Connect would be able to find train drivers for that awkward Sunday shift much more easily, even if most of the applicants were motivated by their love of “choo choo trains”.

On the other hand, those occupations not adequately covered by children’s television might suffer. While my kids have watched Fireman Sam, Underground Ernie and Postman Pat, we have yet to see Archie the Actuary, Dave the Data Input Assistant or even Robbie the Rabbi, come to think of it.

My son, four-year-old Alex, has been as influenced as any child. He had a brief flirtation with fire-fighting and superhero-dom before deciding on palaeontology as a career (having watched Harry and His Bucketful of Dinosaurs).

In fact he claims to know so much about dinosaurs that he already considers himself a palientologist. This may in fact be true but I still need to remind him that grown-up palaeontologists never leave their dinosaurs in a pile in their rooms at bedtime.

So what was my ambition when I was a kid? It’s all a little hazy now but I distinctly remember having a burning desire to write vaguely amusing nonsense for a top Jewish publication.

Kids, I’m here to tell you that your dreams can come true.

Last updated: 4:50pm, December 10 2009


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