While, in the main, I am not one for stereotypes, that age-old stereotype of “pushy” Jewish parents who want the best for their children is probably closer to the truth than many of us would like to admit.
There’s nothing wrong with having aspirations for our children to be the best they can, to achieve great heights and also be good people. However, maybe it’s time we started to think way beyond this stereotype when it comes to advice on career paths for our children.
One of the most common questions I am asked when I talk about the 1,500-strong staff team at Jewish Care is “why aren’t more of your staff Jewish?” The short answer is, they aren’t coming to us.
We estimate that between 10 and 15 per cent of our workforce is Jewish. This figure drops significantly when it comes to front-line care staff.
Our front-line staff are the individuals who really make a difference to the lives of older and vulnerable people in our community. They are the backbone of our organisation. They are what makes Jewish Care so special.
We all guide our children, we help them shape their aspirations and paths in life. Despite our desire to have first-class care when we need it, we as a community are not guiding our children towards social care. I would even go as far as saying we are steering them away from this route. “My son the care worker” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “my son the lawyer” or “my son the doctor”.
This week, many young people and their parents are waiting with baited breath for exam results. These results often determine the next step — a possible place at university, college or, for some, the need to rethink their plans.
I don’t envy the current batch of school-leavers and graduates. For my generation, a first-class degree or straight A’s from school would open doors into a number of opportunities. Today, with increased competition, it may not even guarantee an interview.
Increasing numbers of young people, including those with excellent grades, are struggling to gain meaningful employment. Yet there is a sector crying out for bright young people with something special about them.
I know that there are job opportunities in the care sector —we don’t always fill our job vacancies easily.
That’s one of the reasons why we set up our 12-month apprentice programme, which gives on-the-job training, in parallel with working towards a diploma in health and social care.
It is a great opportunity for a fast track into a career filled with opportunity — but, to date, we have had only one Jewish person joining this programme.
Granted, working in care isn’t for everyone. It can be tough; many young people entering care start their career working on the front line, caring for vulnerable people with high support needs. It’s not glamorous, but it can be incredibly fulfilling. What’s more, for the sceptical parents, the career progression for warm, bright, enthusiastic carers can be great. Management of care homes is paid well.
There is a raft of opportunities for good people and the progression can take you beyond managing a care home into management for large care home providers, or even further in the social-care sector.
We are a community that prides itself in looking after each other. We all want great care as we age. However, very rarely do I come across a parent who encourages their children to consider social care as a career.
As you guide your children, grandchildren or other young people in the community through the potential paths they may take, maybe you need to look further afield.
This is a sector full of opportunity: a growing sector, one unlikely to decline; a sector undervalued by society yet full of meaningful employment opportunity. Social care and social work often feel to me like the poor person’s health sector. It shouldn’t be seen this way.
I look forward to a day when we as a community will be proud to say our children are carers for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.