26 January 2009

On my son's career

What do you do with a joint honours in philosophy and sociology? Go into fitting floors, in his case. It's a fascinating study, of course;
  • All the political rhetoric about promoting social mobility fails to recognise (unlike Michael Young in 1958), that in a finite system, if some elements go up a corresponding number need to go down.
  • It seems to be a trade without regulation or qualifications (they may exist but they exercise little influence), so my son is a sort of "apprentice", but without the safeguards implied by that. He is simply being inducted into a community of practice.
  • But that confers enormous power on his employer. While my son is learning, he is a self-employed labourer. His employer has no obligations towards him, and if he has no work for him, he is simply laid off. His employer does not like paying him (or his other workers), but since my son is not yet acknowledged as a full-fledged fitter, he can't move on in reaction to delayed payment. The tax deadline is looming at the end of this week; the employer shows no inclination to provide the required paperwork to evidence tax deducted at source. Marx and Robert Tressell would love this!
  • My son has just done his first free-lance job in his own right. It was a simple laminate flooring job, but it took him twice as long as he expected, and so he only got half the rate he thought he was charging.
  • It took so long because he had no-one to ask about problems he was encountering, and had to work them all out for himself. On reflection he thinks this was a good thing, because the lessons will stick. Well, yes; but did he learn the best techniques? He learned to survive, but is that enough? Will his mere survival actually hold him back?
  • One thing he did learn was a variant of the Pareto principle (a.k.a. [roughly] as the 80/20 rule) He hadn't heard of this (he has a sociology degree? But it's more economics and not fashionable nowadays) but recognised it instantly. You get 80% of the job done in 20% of the time, then spend the remaining 80% fiddling with the remaining 20%--and that's not time-wasting, it is built into the nature of the system...
Of course, he wanted to do something practical... he'd had enough of theory!


At 3:32 PM , Blogger Marc Sheffner said...

I forget who said it, but "There's nothing so practical as a good theory".

At 10:46 PM , Blogger James A said...

It's been attributed to Kurt Lewin, but I haven't got the specific reference


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