Taking “afternoon tea” at one of the local FE colleges to mark a friend’s retirement was an insight into the catering training young people get these days.
The sausage roll’s flaky puff pastry was excellent, but the plates of sandwiches had clearly been left on a hot plate: the bread was actually crispy! The icing sugar dusting on the fruit scone was a warning while the medley of cakes verged on full diabetes coma alert! Any flavours just disappeared into sweetness. The young students were obviously doing their very best but needed tutors with better recipes.
I’m not one to talk having just spent a couple of days making the annual batch of marmalade. January is the season for Seville oranges and there has been much debate with friends and family about the best recipe. Some like tins of pre-prepared fruit (available any time) while others argue about when to chop the fruit (raw or pre-cooked). There’s probably no definitive version although mine is fresh and tangy with the orange juice. And making the marmalade over a couple of days means it is a pleasure rather than a chore.
Talking about work, they say that about one million people withdrew their labour during Covid. If they’d been organised, we might call it a strike. Yes, some will be on their sick beds and others will have retired but they won’t be the big numbers. The rest may have simply decided that their pay, their working conditions, the work itself, colleagues and customers simply weren’t worth the hassle. They may now be worse off but happier.
They also say that we need about another 350,000 extra workers if the economy is going to ever grow again (the UK is doing worse than any of the other advanced economies).
Even if The Department for Work and Pensions and Jobcentre Plus do their best, this seems a daunting target. Perhaps employers need to play their part.
What do workers want? Security is a start: Zero hours contracts don’t breed confidence if you are never sure what’s in your wage packet. And you want work that’s going to last for more than a few days, weeks, months. Respect is good: customers, colleagues, bosses and the rest actually giving you the time of day, valuing what you do and more. Being able to do your job well means the right training first and don’t forget all the equality stuff too. No one wants disrespect due to colour, gender, age, health conditions and the rest. Workers want to feel good about themselves, their workmates and what they do. Employers (of whichever sector) need to understand that we are living, breathing humans and not just cogs in their machines.