While browsing the Daily Mail online, I came across an article written by one of the Mail's bloggers, Dominique Jackson. Her piece was about why in the last year the number of unemployed British young people, aged between 16 and 24 years old, rose to over a million (imperial million, i.e. 1,000,000) for the first time over many years. At the same time, in the past year, 181,000 overseas-born applicants successfully landed jobs here in the UK, which is equivalent to 490 each day.
The general opinion for this phenomenon is that those who have decided to stay out of work are better off on benefits, which means that they each receive from the taxpayer a higher income from the State than one would from a low-paid job. They protest on why should they get up early in the morning to work their socks off at such a dead-end job, and at the end of the day, actually be worse off, with a slimmer wallet.
Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Why work for less money? But this also highlight another attitude among the British unemployed, a lack of the work-ethic.
But it was writer Dominique Jackson who had revealed what might be considered the underlying motive. This is what she wrote, and I quote:
Urged by his parents, both mesmerised by the shibboleth of a University education, young Johnnie will eschew the lowly apprenticeship and fight for his right to a still coveted three years of further education...There remains a stubborn snobbery, in almost every sector of British society, about starting work on the shop floor.
And yet, as the author also brought up, the now famous tycoon of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, did poorly at school due to dyslexia, and had never seen the inside of a University. Neither did Lord Alan Sugar, another successful businessman who built his empire from a market stall selling flowers in London. (Alan Sugar is the host of The Apprentice UK, our version of Donald Trump.) Really, as I have experienced, there is nothing wrong with shop floor work.
As I can testify. After leaving school in 1968 with absolutely no qualifications, my first three years of work were spent sweeping the floor each morning of two departments at a furniture-making factory. Additionally, in the wood finishing workshop, each week I had to clean out the two spray booths, the market stall-like structure with an extractor fan where lacquer and other finishes were sprayed on to the woodwork. This created an accumulation of fine white powder, which had to be cleared away. So I ended up literally covered from hair to shoes with this dust, as I poured it onto the bonfire some distance outside. That was my job, I never complained or objected. At least with the making of the teas, (a worker's custom here in the UK - the traditional tea break)- this was done by another adolescent in the cabinet-making department, who had to make tea each morning for the entire workforce, me included.
I personally believe that those years made the transformation from boyhood to manhood. Throughout that time, working in an all-male environment, I learned more smut and filthy talk in the first few weeks than from all my schooldays. And of course I was subjected to teasing. One occasion I was told to go down to the stores for a long weight. Thinking of some gadget essential for the job, I stood and waited...and waited. Then the penny dropped: A long wait! Well, look at it this way, at least I had a free respite without having to answer to the boss. And neither was I subjected to go out and buy a packet of holes, as one of my colleagues had to a few years earlier. Perhaps had I been sent out on such an errand, I might have returned with a packet of doughnuts, and enjoy a good nosh up in the men's restroom! But one very beneficial outcome from this work experience was that it made a man out of me.
In a sense, I never left the shop floor, even after more than 43 years of my working life. Only its nature had changed. I'm now self-employed, running a business cleaning windows at the homes of my clients, which I had been doing for over 31 years. The longevity of the business testifies that I must get some enjoyment and a sense of achievement from my work.
But I didn't stop there. During the last thirty-plus years I attended evening college voluntarily and acquired two G.C.E. "O" Levels, one in English language and the other in Geography. Alongside this, after confessing Jesus Christ to my all-male work colleagues at the furniture factory in 1973, my knowledge of the Bible began to take root and grow.
And may I add one interesting point to this saga. All I had at the time was a pocket New Testament, which was given to me some years earlier by the Gideons at school. When I took it in to work, so I could have a quick read during the break, our foreman looked at it with an element of fear. It also caused reaction from other employees, causing them to blaspheme as well as leading to hot discussions. How could such a little book have such an effect? A couple of months later in 1973, I terminated my employment at the furniture factory to take on a very different job as a pool lifeguard, having qualified in the months leading up to the change.
Later, in the early 1980s, I learned a little bit of computer programming at home, thanks to the good old Sinclair ZX81 home computer with just 1K of RAM, a shoebox cassette recorder for storing software, and a TV set with a spare channel! You see, by then, the church I was attending had attracted a group of young University graduates who worked at one particular computer programming company who moved into our town to trade in our area. During the mid 1970s I began to feel small and inferior in their presence. (See my blog, Alan Sugar at the Kerith? published June 28th, 2011.) The introduction of the ZX81 home computer with which I can actually learn to program was a great confidence booster! I actually believe that God was in this, opening a door to new knowledge, which rebounded in a better walk with God, Bible study and acceptance of my social status. But all this has never made me leave the shop floor, even when there were times I wished that I was able to. Yet I also knew that there was nothing wrong with manual work, unlike the thinking of many of today's younger Brits who believe that the shop floor is beneath them.
Then again there is a point when one wants to take on a particular vocation. One good example is a man I admire, South Today reporter Allan Sinclair.
On his South Today profile, he tells us that from boyhood he always wanted to be a journalist. But at age 14, he was told by the school careers adviser that he should pursue a trade in plumbing. I think Sinclair felt rather crushed. Why the advisor came up with such an idea we were not told, neither were we told if this student left school with any qualifications. But later in his life he worked as a journalist with various local newspapers before finally being hired by the BBC as a Regional News Reporter. Did he eschew an apprenticeship in plumbing because of snobbery? No, not at all. Journalism was his dream. And I believe that many, if not the majority, of worthwhile professions are held by those who had a passion for their vocation since their schooldays. This is a stark contrast to Johnnie, mentioned above, who only wanted to go to University to escape the dread of manual work he saw as something beneath him.
All this takes me to the Parable of the Talents, spoken by Jesus Christ in Matthew 25:14-30. Here, the Lord tells a story of a master who will be absent for a long time. Just before he goes, however, he chooses three of his servants and he gave one five talents, another he gave two, and the third he gave one talent. I do not know exactly how much a talent is worth, but I believe it to be several thousand pounds or dollars. He told each of them to use the money to trade and bring back a profit. The first two went straightaway to trade. But the third hid the money in the ground. Why did he do it?
I think it was because he felt that his master underestimated his ability, which made him feel resentful. In other words, the servant refused to believe in his master, while the other two believed in him. Now supposing that I was there, a fourth servant. I would approach the master and ask,
"What about me?"
"What about you?" He asks.
"You did not give me any money to trade with."
The master looks me up and down, and with his hand under his chin, mutters,
After a long pause, he disappears, then returns with a small bag.
"Try with this," he says. "Its a quarter of a talent, but let see what you can make of it."
Wheres today I would have no idea what to do with the money, since I have no experience in stocks and shares. But back in those days the servants knew exactly what to do. And I would be no different.
Straight away I invest the cash in two cattle, a bull and a cow, and some sheep, along with their food, especially mandrakes - which is an aphrodisiac. Then I let nature take its course. I also use the cowpats for fertiliser over a field, and invest in some wheat seed, as well as fodder for the animals.
Over a period of time, harvesting yields a bountiful crop which I sell to the markets. The older offspring of the cattle and sheep, after birthing another generation, I would also sell to the market. So it goes on until I have a full talent by the time the master returns.
The first servant invested his five talents to make five more, likewise the second servant turned his two talents into four, and both were richly rewarded. But the master passed a harsh judgement on the one who buried his one talent and had nothing more to show for it. Then, meekly and with fear of the same judgement passed to the third man who had the one talent, I say to him,
"Lord, you know the quarter talent you gave me? Well, er, I made it into one full talent."
The master's eyes widened and sparkled and a big smile spread across his face, from ear to ear.
"WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT!" He almost shouted. "Because you have been faithful over such a small thing, I will let you be responsible over bigger things. Enter into the joy of your Lord."
So the third man and I both yielded the same amount of money, a talent. But why such a contrast in the master's judgement? It was all because I believed in him, the other fellow did not.
And that's how God sees us. He does not evaluate by social status or level of education. Neither does he evaluate us on our nationality. He evaluates us whether we believe in him and of our availability to serve him. Whether one is a Minister of Parliament or Senator, a Doctor, Journalist, or for that matter, a cleaner or one who sweeps the streets, or clean windows, or empty the dustbins. God will always reward those who believe in Jesus.
If only young Johnnie knew that when his enthusiastic parents were being interviewed. Maybe their son would have readily accepted a "lowly apprenticeship" knowing that his main aim in life was to exalt and glorify God in throughout his life.