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Level Playing Field Plea

I heard a pretty sad thing on the radio a couple of months back. It was on the BBC World Service. There was an item about some middle-class English teenager who was managing a carpet factory in one of the former Soviet-stans. His sole qualification for the job seemed to be that he was a middle-class English teenager on what is now called a “gap year”. This is when a youngster whose family have piles of cash goes travelling for a year before going to University. As far as I can gather nearly all British children who attend private school do this. Often at least part of year is spent doing some humanitarian project run by a Non-Governmental Organisation. The bulk of people working for British NGOs seem to have attended private schools.
Now what to me was sad was that there were probably plenty of unemployed carpet factory workers in the United Kingdom who could have run this factory. But they never got the chance.
When I started work what they call “interns” were rare. These are youngsters who can basically afford to work for free. They hope that if they do a good job they will be taken on as permanent employees. At worst the work experience looks good on their resume/CV. What this means is that in many fields of employment, the media for sure, the only people getting hired are rich kids. That seems a terrible, terrible, waste of the talent pool available. What happens to the talented kids who can't afford to work for free? They don't work.
There was a time when Scotland led the world in medicine and engineering. The list of Scottish inventions is long. This was because there was a time when Scotland was a world leader in offering free education to the masses. Now, it's a myth that this meant that any poor kid with brains could become a doctor or an engineer. Too often, poor kids had to go out and work to help support their families. But some, a lucky few, were plucked from poverty and allowed to fulfil their potential. The kid won, and society won by having the best medical or engineering talent in the country put to work. Now, thanks to intern system the best we can hope for is a mediocre middle-class kid. Yay!



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