Waaaay back in the dim and distant – somewhere around my 16th birthday – my school was, as every year, visited by a number of major local employers, Army, Air Force and Navy etc. All with the aim of telling those of us in our final year of secondary school who might not be going on to Further Education what was out there in the big, wide world of work! This was something of a waste of time as I don’t think any of us (not in my class anyway) had the faintest idea of what we wanted to do and all assumed that we WOULD be going on to College.
The actual presentations do not strike any memory chords at all but the one thing I DO remember was the bit that came when the movie, slide show or talk finished and the presenter uttered the immortal words, “Any questions?” The silence that always followed was, as they say, deafening!
This was particularly awkward as such external visitations represented the very few occasions when the Headmaster (complete with old-fashioned mortar board and gown) would emerge from his study to sit at the side of the hall and watch. Nobody ever wanted to say anything and I know, speaking for myself, that I REALLY could not think of anything to ask. We could all, however, feel the Headmaster glaring at us before rising to thank the speaker on our behalf. The visitor would leave and we would be subjected to a telling-off implying that not to ask questions was the height of rudeness.
After this had happened a couple of times someone (not me – I was much too shy!) spoke up with a really banal question to break the silence – no, I don’t remember what it was. We were then subjected to a telling-off by the Head accusing us of not listening to what the speaker had said!
The highlight of the whole jobs process was a class by class visit from a member of the Government Youth Employment service to distribute questionnaires, stand around while we filled them in and then take them back to the office for processing. Now, Class 5A had a very peculiar collective sense of humour and had to repeat their forms when it transpired that we had all put “Youth Employment Officer” as our first preference for work – on the grounds that you only had to work one week a year!
They had their revenge later, however, when I was sent for interviews and wound up working for the Inland Revenue, processing Tax Returns, having expressly stated on my forms that I did not want to work in an office filling in forms!
The Tax Office I was put in turned out to be on the same floor as, you guessed it, the Youth Employment Office and the advisor who put me there was probably very confused at the number of times he heard the muttered word “Bastard!” when passing along a crowded corridor!