I left school in an age, unlike today, when school leavers were actually courted by potential employers. It wasn’t that it was difficult to find employees – it was difficult to find employees with the education that was required.
My school days were spent in a primary/secondary school from where I moved on to the local grammar school after passing the 11+ examination. It was interesting that, in those days, we took so many exams that the 11+ was not even treated any differently and, even though many pupils feared it, none of them realised that they were actually sitting it. For this reason I think the results were more valid.
Grammar school, in those days of real life being run by real people living in the real world, taught me about competition and the way my life would be controlled by the way in which I was able to compete. Excellence was not frowned upon but encouraged whole heartedly. Grammar school also showed me that my talents were more cerebral than practical and that I should aim to work in the white collar sector.
My first job was the also the first step in the process of becoming an accountant – I became an audit clerk. I’m sure Dickens would have recognised the type of office in which I worked and, although the work was boring, it did set up my attitude so that precision became a part of everything I did.
I suppose the most boring of all aspects of my work was ‘vouching’ – going through great collections of every sort of receipt you can imagine and ticking them off against an entry in a cash book, analysis book or journal. This was almost as boring as ‘cross casting’ analysis books where it was necessary to ensure that the total of all the analysis columns equated to the total of the main (total) column. It seldom did so each page had to be checked, line by line, to ensure that entries had been made correctly.
Nowadays, with the advent of automated book keeping, this sort of job seldom arises but, for all the drudgery that it involved and the stultifying boredom that it engendered, I am really grateful that I had this introduction to how the real world works. It was so useful to know what was going on in the books of account and to be able to rectify errors manually because, now, if I see something that doesn’t quite ‘add up’ in whatever circumstances, I recognise it and can try to work out the problem.
It is a great shame that work is so hard to find and that so much of the difficulty has been removed from what work is available so that less qualified people find work easier than those who are qualified and will, probably, cost more to hire.
The problem is, the automation that is rife today is not understood by those who operate it and will probably cost more in the long run.