A mate of mine who’s a primary school teacher recently invited me to take part in a job’s fair at her school, St Timothy’s in Coatbridge. She’d invited a bunch of other creative peeps, including Carbon Copy who are an events band, and Cat Leaver who manages After Digital, a digital agency based in Glasgow, Manchester and London.
So I went along to talk about doing illustration and web design.
It turned out to be a fantastic day – there were folk from every conceivable type of employment, from the Police to nail bar technicians, surveyors and beauty. The school had prepared the hall really well – a couple of secondary school pupils had made food and were manning the stall and there were displays and information boards laid out.
The kids were all around 10 years old and had been primed for the event. They all carried clipboards with them and on those a series of questions for the employers. They walked around, finding out what they were most interested in, and then had time to go around and quiz us – questions like “What kind of qualifications do you need to do your job?” and “What’s the best thing about your job?”
Loads of the kids were really excited by seeing really comic book art – I had a portfolio of hand-drawn pencilled pages as well as some colour prints – and they were surprisingly polite and enthusiastic. They asked their questions and took notes, leafing through the work with loads of “Oooohs,” and “Ahhhhs,” and “Did you actually draw this?”
My answers were straightforward – standard grade and higher qualifications would be English (and make sure you read a lot), Art and ICT or computing. You can go to college or university to learn more, but you can also teach yourself. And the best thing about my job? Being my own boss.
I was really surprised by the event – pleasantly so. Not only were the kids really enthusiastic and well-mannered, the teachers seemed really involved too. But my takeaway was this – this was a fantastic thing for 10-year-old kids to experience. When I was a pup, careers advice was: “Don’t do art, stick to academics, and maybe consider the law, or something.”
My teachers had no idea how to encourage us in careers and could only really try to persuade us to take certain subjects – mainly the ones with more funding. This event, on the other hand, allowed kids to actually talk to a host of people doing completely different jobs. No elitism, just people talking about what they did as a career. The kids went away buzzing, no doubt with loads of new ideas about how their lives could be mapped out.
I reserve a cold, dark place in my heart for capitalism and the idea that people’s worth is defined by how much the earn – but given that we’re in the system and stuck with it for the time, the next best thing is ensuring that young people know they can be anything they want to, if they put their minds and practice to it. The only way they have proper choices is by seeing those opportunities in front of them, talking to people who do those things, who can tell them how to achieve it.
It was awesome to be part of something like that and I damn near choked up when one of the teachers thanked us all, saying we’d made a difference to the future of those kids…