Wolf at the Door

Alison Wolf has published her report into further education and it’s pretty refreshing. Not only does she criticise FE institutions for piling on a load of qualifications that don’t mean anything in real ‘job’ terms because they get paid by how many qualifications they put students through, she also focuses on apprenticeships and how useful they can be to both employer and teenager.

There’s a couple of things that seem a bit odd – the removal of the work experience requirement between the ages of 14 and 16 because of lack of placements appears to me to have another solution – make businesses offer placements – and asking kids of 14 to make the life-altering choice of whether they continue in academia or go to a technical school is quite pressured. Who the hell knows what they want at 14? What if they haven’t been taught the thing that they might be amazing at, like philosophy or psychology? Do they risk being labeled a thicko if they choose the technical school because they want to be a social worker? And isn’t academia kinda about academia rather than getting a job?

But these are essentially subjective questions. Each teenager is going to be different, and I like that she has recommended that people can go to the higher education they felt they missed out on later in life if they change their mind.

I also agree that English and Maths should be studied for as long as possible – but probably not in an academic way. English and Maths GCSE are, quite frankly, of no real use in the ‘real world’ – yes, reading is awesome and should be encouraged, and yes, ratios and fractions are handy for simple things like cooking, but not many people need algebra in their daily routine. Do you need to know about Sine and Cosine in your day job? I know that I use some stuff I learned in English GCSE in my day job, but I work in communications and I need to know about language – and even I don’t say Caesura, I say pause in the speech, because that’s more understandable.

What they should be taught, as these are life skills, are mental arithmatic – how to calculate the tip on a bill, what it means if you’re getting something for 20% off – and spelling and grammar, because if one more person uses ‘you’re’ instead of ‘your’, I might flip out. Spelling and grammar not only gives others a better impression of you, they make what you say more understandable, and they create less work for me! I think grammar should be compulsory until they can write an essay using the correct forms of its and it’s.

But I digress, for I  am a bit crazy about grammar. Sorting out the technical and vocational further education in this country seems emminently sensible, as we need highly skilled plumbers, electricians, engineers, carpenters and metalworkers. We also need social workers, nurses, teaching assistants and hairdressers. And teenagers need jobs. It makes sense to give young people the skills they need to supply us with services we need, because that’s how the world works. They get paid, we get nice hair and cupboards, and thus the world keeps turning. Academia is not for everyone – I bloody hated it, apart from the leisure time in which to drink, but what I wanted to do wasn’t technical or a vocation, so off I had to go to Uni.

I just really hope this doesn’t lead to a whole bunch of Tories like this one, sniggering about how they don’t need the French of Moliere, they need the French of business. What a fucking wanker.

The invisible man(ager)

David Cameron, by all accounts, takes a pretty hands-off approach to leading his party, his coalition government and by extension, the country. He’s had to re-affirm that he’s even in charge because he’s not in the country. Which I thought was a bit odd. I mean, as anyone who’s worked in a giant global corporation knows, just because your manager may be in a different country, doesn’t mean he’s not your boss.

Technology has of course made this easier. Cameron reminded us that in the age where you have Blackberrys, email and social media, you don’t really leave work when you leave work. It’s both a blessing and a curse. I don’t read work email or answers work calls after a certain time of day, because it would encroach on my personal life. I expect others to feel the same so I don’t make those calls either, but I know several people who simply can’t not answer an email, even when on holiday on a beach in the Caribbean. These people are mostly senior leaders, so perhaps if I ever want to reach those lofty heights, I should start being more contactable – but I’d rather have my leisure time than money.

I would expect the leader of the country to be the same as those Crackberry addicts – always checking (or at least having minions to check) your email, making sure memos and reports are timely and on my desk or in my briefcase, that messages are returned and calls are made. I don’t think it’s a huge leap to believe that when Cameron is trolling the Middle East for more money, he’s also keeping an eye on anything important kicking off in this country.

But, and here’s the big but, he might be in charge but to many of his ministers and direct reports, out of sight, out of mind. It seems that while he’s away, it’s less the mice will play and more the mice will relax, not pay attention to some memos and then realise they have two crises on their hands at the same time and panic. It’s a bit galling (or gauling) when the French beat you to evacuating your people from a rioting country.

Is this Cameron’s fault? There’s a lot of finger pointing and apologies being made, and while we’re slow at getting people out of Libya, we are doing it now. I take the rare move of defending the government when I hear those holiday makers saying that the government didn’t tell them if and when to leave the country. I’m sorry, there’s gunfire and bombs and mercenaries roaming the streets, and you have to have your government several thousand miles away make the decision to leave for you? Fuck off and use your common sense. Flights have been cancelled since Tuesday but this has been going on for over a week.

But for those in this country with friends and family members living out there complaining that they aren’t getting the information and planes should be chartered to get them out sooner, I do think that perhaps his management approach isn’t the best. While I hate micro-managers, you would think that he’d take a greater interest in the welfare of the British people.

The Guardian reports that his managerial style is causing a certain vagueness to descend on Whitehall – a lack of communication perhaps:

“Critics blamed the set-up on Cameron’s hands-off approach, akin to a chairman of the board rather than a chief executive, for the failure to get a grip over Whitehall.”

I personally don’t see a CEO having more hands-on experience than a Chairman, just more visibility, but I do see their point – a vague patriarchal interest in ministerial matters ain’t going to cut it – he needs to know what’s going on, take an active interest and make decisions when it’s necessary. No use sitting back and saying ‘I’m the leader, I do the foreign tours and make the speeches and kiss the babies and meet the Queen and you guys do all the work’, you need to be able to say you know what’s going on and why. We have a fairly inquisitive media and a slightly hostile public, you can’t take the helicopter view all the time as leader, there has to be some substance.

And that’s perhaps the problem. Because when it comes to Cameron, so much of what he says and does seems intangible, all smoke and mirrors. From the fact that the percentage of people who understood the Big Society went down after the re-launch (63% didn’t understand it at the end of January, 72% didn’t understand it mid-February), to his speech mentioning Egypt once and instead focusing on how we should be afraid of Muslims who don’t integrate (terrible speech), he doesn’t seem to have his finger on the pulse. And in today’s tech-heavy, fast-moving society who looks for decisive and informed leadership, that just doesn’t cut it.

Nostalgia

Sorry, random post, but I really love the new Disney adverts. I don’t care if they are playing on making kids jealous of the ones going to Disney, it completely harks back to when your parents told you you were going to Disney. Or makes you wish they had. Or makes you want to make your kids that happy.

I now totally want to go to Disney. And take the boy, for he has never been. And I wanna go to the one in Florida, so we can go to all the other theme parks too. Fabulous advert – well done to that company.

New job nerves

I start my new job tomorrow. I’m quite nervous. Essentially, my job before last I had a manager who bullied me horribly until I was a shadow of my former self and cried a lot. My most recent job had an evil Director who hated me for no real reason and I now have an irrational fear that my judgment isn’t sound because if I checked with other people, that was apparently the wrong thing to do, and if I made a decision, that was also the wrong thing to do.

So I have less faith in myself that I used to. But I’ve learned a lot and know way more than I did. I know that everyone fucks up at work on a fairly regular basis, and I will fuck up from time to time. I guess I just have go in and fuck up with enthusiasm and a good sense of humour!

I just hope that tomorrow goes well and I get a good placement. I hope I don’t fuck up that much. I hope the Tube runs ok. Erk. Cross your fingers for me.

Football has balls, you know

Have just seen the Sky/female linesman story and yelled at my TV. Now, I know that this is football, where men are men (once summed up by someone as 22 sperm chasing one egg) but this, this my friends, is the tip of the fucking misogynist iceberg. This is only being an issue because it’s taped and so blatant, it couldn’t be ignored. Commenting on her appearance and thinking she won’t know the rules and be bad at her job happens all the fucking time, from government (hey, journalists that mention when female MPs wear a bright colour and that coined the term ‘Blair Babes’) to the City, where several women I know have suffered sexual harassment and daily comments on their breasts.

I just want to point out that I, who works communications, know the fucking offside rule: you are offside if there is not a defender (besides the goalie) between a player and the goal when the ball is played forward in the opposition’s half.

I also want to point out that the Sky commentators are cunts.

Last day

It’s my last day in the office and I’m about to let my soon-to-be ex-colleagues have this blog address. Always worrying. This is why I keep my Twitter and blog secret to colleagues and why I never mention my workplace’s name or incriminating details. Nothing worse than feeling you have to censor yourself.

It’s that strange feeling I get when I leave somewhere – sad to not be seeing the people everyday, excited to be moving somewhere new, happy to be leaving some of the shitty politics behind and not a huge amount to do. I always want to be able to pop in the following week to make sure everything is ok. I wish I could say it was dedication, but it’s most likely my control freak peeking out.

Anyway, the sun’s come out to greet me and there’s an article I must blog about regarding youth unemployment and I’m going to get hammered tonight. Things are looking up.

Review

Sometimes office politics is so blatant it makes you feel a little bit ill. Our team is being reviewed except for the team that runs the Mayor’s events, because that’s how he gets re-voted in. Quel surprise.

Anyway, they will be getting rid of people – how many, we don’t know – and will be combining jobs and probably regrading jobs. The public sector is screwed for communications, y’all.