YOUNGSTERS and their worth ethic have long been the subject of muttering among the older generation.
This week, Esther McVey, Minister of State for Employment, when asked by a national newspaper if young people’s job expectations were too high, answered that they should be more willing to take “entry-level jobs”.
She said: “You could be working at Costa. But in a couple of years’ time you might say, ‘I’d like to manage the area’, or might even want to run a hotel in Dubai’.”
A survey by the Education and Employers Taskforce released last spring concluded: “The career aspirations of teenagers at all ages can be said to have nothing in common with the projected demand for labour in the UK between 2010 and 2020.
“For young people, misalignment in the character of ambitions and the availability of realistic employment prospects makes it much less likely that they will experience smooth school-to-work transitions.”
My introduction to the world of work was as a part time waitress in a cafe in Mold where I earned £3.20 an hour. When I turned 17, I got a bit more than my colleagues per hour – perhaps enough to buy one of the iced buns.
In the interim between leaving school and starting something resembling a career, I worked in a shop, a bar, a kitchen, did factory work in Llay, volunteered at a publications office in mid Wales, volunteered at Oxfam in Mold, did agency work and administration, taught creative writing, took on an unpaid internship and then got a break in journalism.
My friends were in the same boat.
They became contract cleaners, worked the graveyard shift at petrol stations, went into industrial cleaning, busked, part-timed as lifeguards or served burgers in McDonald’s.
None of us are running a hotel in Dubai, yet.
I asked Leader readers what their first jobs were and whether they thought unrealistic ambitions were an impediment to work.
Stacey Blundell of Wrexham said: “I was a butcher’s assistant at 14. Now I’m 23 and it got me nowhere.
“I’m qualified in circuit training but no one’s willing to give me a chance. There’s also not enough full-time jobs going. Most of them are part time, dead-end jobs; that’s where people get stuck.”
Terence Mercer, 55, of Llangollen, said: “I worked on a farm when I was 16. It was in Llanarmon yn Ial. I didn’t speak Welsh but I soon learned.
“All my jobs have given me life skills, but the only one I stayed with was the Royal Welsh, where I served for 30 years.”
Sharon Parry, 40, of Wrexham, said that at least some young people were “willing to take anything”, including her daughter, aged 19.
Sharon said: “She had a job, but her contract finished just before Christmas. Even though she was looking to go into the police, she was willing to take any job that came her way.
“She was offered an interview in a town centre store, where she was told if she got the position it would be unpaid but may lead to a job. She is currently working 30 hours a week unpaid.”
Michael Gittins, of Ruabon, worked a paper round aged 12.
He said: “I’ve worked in a couple of different jobs, been both employed and self employed and am now 31.
“Life is about contacts and mates giving words in the right ears. I would say you should take any job, but only if it’s a step in the right direction. Nobody will get anywhere in life being a busy fool!”
Lynette Andrews, 28, of Llangollen, said: “I’ve been in and out of jobs since I was 16.
Most of them were agency or Christmas temping, and because I don’t have experience in what some employers want, they get rid.
“I don’t want to be a bog scrubber or a packer all my life. I want a job that I like and I could work my way up the job ladder.”
Sian Lucking, 39, of Flint, thought a job was a job.
She said: “When you are already employed, it’s easier to find other work. You take what you can to make ends meet. I think Esther McVey is right. We are living in different times now.”
Kate Harding, 36, of Chester, said: “We do live in different times where benefit culture is passed on through the generation. Now the new generation believe it’s a given right. I don’t mean everyone, of course. I’m generalising.”
Sue Cartelidge, 56, of Flint, joked: “I used to think that young people want to work between the hours of 11am and 3pm, and want the salary of a brain surgeon!”