Tag Archives: jobs

‪#‎firstsevenjobs‬

Today I’m a professional writer, but I initially studied Computer Science and Software Engineering and my career started in technology. Later on I got an MBA and moved into management before moving into writing, but these were my first seven jobs…

‪#‎firstsevenjobs‬

  1. Car washer (invested in a bucket, soap, leathers and knocked door-to-door)
  2. Paperboy (local newsagent store, every morning out cycling before 6am)
  3. Frozen food shelf stacker (Sainsbury’s store – in frozen food freezers all day)
  4. Produce shelf stacker (Safeway store – stacking apples and potatoes all day)
  5. Computer programmer (designing IT systems for Tesco and Dixons stores)
  6. Computer programmer (trading floor of Japanese bank Tokai)
  7. Software designer (Startup specialised in bank trading floor data)
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We never manufacture things any more…

A common refrain about the state of the world today is the economic emphasis on services rather than manufactured products – the cry that we don’t make ‘stuff’ anymore, we just import it all from low-cost countries and the only jobs are in shops or giving acupuncture to dogs with wealthy owners.

But take a look at the news about British car manufacturing in the Financial Times today. Production of cars and commerical vehicles has jumped to over 1.4m vehicles in 2010 – that’s up 28% on the year before.

But it’s still not like the good old days is it? The Rovers and British Leyland marques that dominated the world?

Well, the absolute peak of vehicle production in the UK was in 1970 when just over 2m units were produced. That’s right, just 2m. Not much more than today is it? And by 1980, car and commercial vehicle production in the UK had slumped to 1.3m units – less than today’s figures.

But they are all foreign brands, none of them are British anymore might seem the next response…

But those companies – like Nissan, Toyota, Honda, VW, GM, and Ford – are all employing local British workers to build their vehicles in Britain, so those companies are creating British jobs and investing in the industrial manufacturing heritage of the nation.

Who complains about Santander being one of the dominant high street banks today (and not British)? Or Green & Blacks chocolate being the dominant brand of organic confectionary (and not British)? Or that cup of (Indian) Tetley tea?

The world has certainly changed since the automotive industry was all about local design, local production, and local sales, but it can’t be said that Britain doesn’t build anything these days. Britain is still building and exporting, it’s just not always British brands that are exported from Britain.
Morris Oxford

Students smashing shop windows in London

Students are tearing up London today. There are riots as a reaction to the government plans to triple the maximum annual tuition fee, from £3,000 to £9,000.

I can understand the depth of feeling. I think that as we face increased global competition, a country like the UK has to educate our young people if they are to compete. We can’t compete internationally with an uneducated workforce – low-cost skills can easily be sourced elsewhere for much less than they cost locally in the UK.

And I was recently working in Malta, the smallest EU nation, where they still pay students to study. Course fees are all covered by the government and the students receive a stipend… cash straight into their pocket. It used to be like that when I was a student in the 1980s, though I was studying right towards the end of the glory days when it was free to study and you got a grant just for being a student.

Tripling the cost of education when we need more educated young people is outrageous, but I don’t think any students have helped their cause today by smashing up London. Most people in the UK are more concerned about the 500,000 public-sector jobs that are about to vanish – and probably a similar number in the private sector that were supporting those public-sector people. That’s a million people on the dole soon.

Do the students really think that their desire to study for free is considered more urgent or important than millions of workers being cast out to the wilderness of unemployment?

The NUS can’t demand that Lib Dem politicians keep their pledges. Our electoral system created a coalition. That meant the two parties agreed to compromise and one of the pledges made by the Lib Dems was lost in the agreement. End of story. Do they really think that smashing up the city is going to get Nick Clegg to change his mind on this? And much as I sympathise with them, I’m afraid most people won’t be sympathetic… students tearing up the city and breaking windows while others lose their jobs.

Where do you think public sympathy is going to go?

Lse library

On yer bike scroungers! Council tenants to get the boot…

The new Work secretary, Iain Duncan-Smith, has caused outrage by suggesting that the unemployed should move in search of work, directing his focus mainly at council tenants who occupy local authority property, claim benefits, and generally don’t do a lot – it’s reminiscent of former Tory minister Norman (now Lord) Tebbit and his famous ‘my old man got on his bike’ speech.

Tebbit is often misquoted, he actually said: “I grew up in the ’30s with an unemployed father. He didn’t riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking ’til he found it.” He was responding to a statement that unemployment naturally leads to riots.

Iain Duncan-Smith is the protégé of Lord Tebbit and that’s easy to see with these new plans about migration. When Tebbit left the Commons for the Lords, Duncan-Smith replacing him as MP, he is alleged to have said: “If you think I’m right-wing, you should meet this guy.”

But there is an issue of structural unemployment in the UK. Jobs are out there, but often the long-term unemployed are not living in locations where suitable jobs are available. What are the thousands of skilled workers  at the former Corus steel plant in Teesside going to do now – work in McDonald’s or deliver newspapers? Hardly fulfilling, rewarding, or exploiting the skills available.

There is already a system that allows people to swap their council home with tenants in another location, though why people in an area full of work might want to move someplace where there is none is beyond me. The unsettling thing about what the government is now proposing is that they want the power to force people to move in search of work.

That’s not like the romantic dream of the American migrant worker. It’s compulsion. And though I am all for the government trying to help people into work, I don’t think that charging up behind vulnerable people with a big stick is a very strategic appeoach.

Everyone wants to get rid of dole scroungers and the long-term sick claiming incapacity benefit and spending it in the pub – that’s a given – but this problem needs more thought than clunking Conservative proposals to force council tenants out of their home. What about their family and support networks? How will a single parent arrange child care in a new city, because they will need it if they are heading out to work fulltime?

I think the more intelligent response to this issue of work distribution would be to approach it with short, medium, and long-term proposals. In the short term, make it attractive for companies to create jobs away from the Southeast – offer tax incentives and grants to make it really worthwhile. Then for the longer term, the only thing that can make the people more mobile and more likely to find work in future is their education and skills. Give them training and let them find new work, don’t kick them out of home because it makes for a good headline on cutting costs.

Wasn’t there that story in the Bible about teaching a man to fish…?

Labour struggling

Please help the Migrant Tales book project!

The Migrant Tales group on Facebook is starting to get some serious interest. Soon after being set up there are already 120 fans of the book and many ideas starting to flow. But we need more.

I’m starting to contact the editors of various diaspora magazines. You know the free magazines you see scattered around London, mainly outside stations, all focused on a specific migrant community. Where I live in Ealing there are several magazines catering to the local Polish community, nearby in Shepherd’s Bush there are mags for the Kiwi and Aussies.

I need your help to reach out to as many of these diaspora publications as possible. I need to reach their editors to tell them about the book project so they can tell their readers – so we can draw more stories and experiences from these people.

Please get in touch with me if you have a copy of any of these magazines to hand and you can send me the contact email for the title – either leave a comment here on this blog or get in touch with me directly…

Thanks for your help in advance!

The new poor

I’m going to write a longer piece for silicon.com next week analysing this New York Times story on the new poor.

But, in brief. This ‘creative destruction’ is one of the major reasons for pain and unemployment today. Often critics will cry out about the jobs being sent offshore to cheap countries, or the immigrants coming in and stealing jobs. These cries catch the attention of the media and make for easy headlines.

A profession becoming obsolete because of technological change is not as sexy and doesn’t get people on the streets waving placards. But look at some of the numbers in the US. 40% of all travel agents fired. 50% of print operators fired. Half of all US workers made redundant during the recent recession are still out of work.

If there was ever a single newspaper story that made the case for lifelong learning then this is it.