Mandatory work experience? It never works | Ed cumming

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When I was 17, I wanted work experience at NME more than any other investment. It was early 2005, when the Libertines were responsible for the dominant aesthetic of North London teenagers. Schoolchildren wore crimson Victorian soldier tunics without irony for house parties. We didn’t know any better. For a potential hack, there was only one magazine worth chasing. I confidently applied for my niche, assuming I would be invited the following Monday, leaving myself a decent window to brush up on my A-levels after I smacked Pete Doherty’s apartment. They offered me a two-week internship… in March 2007.

Two years is a long time when you’re 17 and even more for independent groups. By the time my turn arrived, I had practically forgotten the NME. Everyone too. The chandelier had left the “scene”. I went there anyway until their turn to Blackfriars in a gray accountant’s suit, a college student disguised as a middle-aged man in an office full of the reverse. One evening, I was offered 24 cans of Carling to stay late and transcribe an interview with Keith Richards. The next morning I was asked if there were any “information lines”. Not really, I say. Just the usual Keith Richards stuff. A few days later I saw some of the words I had typed on the first page of the Sun under the title: KEITH: I SNORED MY FATHER.

We don’t know what people will think is interesting. Work experience is supposed to give you a feel for the career, but in some cases it should really be a warning that this might not be the job for you. Forget about leveling up, how about leveling it down? I was reminded of this happy time in my life by Sir Keir Starmer, who used his conference speech to announce that he would make a two-week internship compulsory for schoolchildren.

If elected, Labor would “focus on practical life skills,” Starmer said. “We will ensure that every young person can see a guidance counselor… We have to make sure that every child leaves school ready for work. The Tories have yet to respond, but I imagine they might be wary of the work experience after the experience with Matt Hancock got so out of hand.

Plus, Starmer was less clear about the jobs than it might be. Like much of Starmer’s vision, his idea of ​​work experience dates back to the ’90s and’ 00s, when it was vital for middle-class parents to ensure their little darlings some sort of edge in life. meaningless office work. If you work for free, it is because there is another value at work: in the case of NME, “cultural capital,” if that’s the right way to describe the two-year wait to write a 60-word review of a Cajun Dance Party single. The idea that the experience was relevant has always been an illusion. Industries where they really valued their people, or where it was important for people to know what they were doing, paid their apprentices. For everyone else, it was a system of patronage and exchange of favors, a line for the CV.

Children today need a different kind of preparation. When I look at my 18 month old daughter, I can’t imagine being able to flirt with her for two weeks with a bank or a law firm. In Great Britain, in 15 years, these kinds of jobs will be long gone. As the nation fades from the world stage, the insignificant office work we have cherished for so many decades will be replaced by the kind of work the world truly demands. But will the work experience be really important in his life as a gas station security guard, bitcoin miner, shitposter, Amazon drone oiler, hostess Wetherspoons, NFT polisher, billionaire blood donor, quick antigen tester, social credit checker, robot butler, TikTok physio, seawater damage consultant or cancel crop enforcement? These are essential tasks. The workforce will be remunerated during its training.

On the other hand, these internships can be useful in other ways. A few years after my first job in a newspaper, I offered new work experience to the graduates. Now this is my wife. What started as a minor abuse of power ended in marriage. Maybe Keir is right. Everyone should have a work experience. It might not help you in your career, but you never know where it might lead. And while the transcription may have been automated, you still need a sharp nose for a story to spot the first line of a Keith Richards interview.


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