Last week the BBC aired a documentary on ‘The Day the Immigrants Left’ – a somewhat limited but insightful social experiment in finding four employers and persuading them to take on local unemployed British people in place of the existing immigrant workers. Of the twelve local workers selected, four didn’t show up at all. Of the remaining eight, three had virtual meltdowns about not being able to do the job. Of the remaining five, two achieved half of what the Lithuanian regulars normally managed. Fairly predictable, but also rather depressing material.
So, are migrants better skilled than British people? Possibly.
But there seems to me to be a much larger question here that goes deeper than whether or not we are equipping our ‘youth’ with the necessary skills to enter the workplace. That question is whether or not we are helping children in school to identify what it is they would like to work towards. What it is they are passionate about. To develop a sense of ‘worthwhile work’ that would do so much more than simply earn a wage – work that would inspire, fulfill, and nourish the soul.
Helping children and adolescents to identify what they are passionate about will go a long way to giving them a sense of life purpose – so that working becomes something they want to do, a means of expressing their inner drivers in the world. This used to be called ‘having a vocation’ – a term now seemingly reserved for the priesthood and aid workers.
Yet a business person can have a vocation. An asparagus farm worker can have a vocation too – and the seasonal farming can be one step towards making the vocation a reality. It gives the work meaning and purpose.
Perhaps if we paid more attention to motivating and inspiring young adults to work, and gave them a taste of what work can really be – rather than just a means of making a living to ‘live’ life outside of work, we might start seeing some different results.