If you are a nurse, teacher or social worker, would you advise your son or daughter against joining the profession?
‘People who have been working in these professions for years did not train or qualify in a golden era’
Morale within these professions is at rock bottom, people feel their professional expertise is undervalued, their commitment often unrecognised. They feel unfairly criticised by politicians and the media. Job security is a thing of the past and the pension isn’t what it was.
It’s not a good time to be working in the public sector. You probably wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow in your footsteps. It’s within this context that The Guardian Public Leaders Network has been asking members why they entered the profession. Because it’s not new for social workers to be savaged in the press, or for teachers to be thought of as having a cushy number with their long holidays, and for old school matrons to claim nursing standards have slipped.
People who have been working in these professions for years did not train or qualify in a golden era when social workers, teachers and nurses enjoyed high social status, a period free of budget cuts and when there were no reorganisations or calls for radical changes. So why did they chose their vocations and would the reasons still hold up today?
My response was “to do something worth while”. I originally trained as a teacher but like many of my contemporaries I went to college at a time when there was shortage of teachers and qualified three years later when there wasn’t – so I did the next best thing and went to work in a children’s home.
Working with kids outside of the classroom was more informal. They called us by our first names, we played football, took them on camping trips, watched Top of the Pops together and read the younger ones bedtime stories while the older ones pretended not to listen. This seemed more “real” but not easier than struggling to keep order in the classroom. It suited me better.
‘There are still plenty of young people keen to do something worthwhile’
But the shift system was draining and social workers called all the shots, so I went back to university to become qualified as a social worker. As a social worker I specialised in working with elderly people who had dementia. The work did not hold the glamour of child protection but it had the feel of pioneering work, setting up new schemes, being radical in championing the rights of this group and challenging the prevailing view of the social work and medical profession.
I don’t know what the equivalent work experience would be these days, but from the comments of social work students, trainee teachers and newly qualified nurses there are still plenty of young people keen to do something worthwhile.