Saturday jobs teach teens much more about life than social media

PUBLISHED: 16:12 09 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:12 09 January 2020

Saturday jobs and holiday jobs like selling ice creams in the summer are great character building opportunities for teenagers to learn about life, says David Clayton

Saturday jobs and holiday jobs like selling ice creams in the summer are great character building opportunities for teenagers to learn about life, says David Clayton

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David Clayton loved his Saturday job back in the 1960s and says its a shame youngsters don’t seem to want them anymore

A new survey has concluded that there's been a marked reduction in the number of teenagers with a Saturday job. It seems our youngsters are prioritising their studies over earning a bit of cash. I worry that they're missing something.

I grew up in Gorleston. There was no shortage of seasonal work for me and my friends and back in the 60s the summer seasons were long. Getting work seemed relatively uncomplicated. We cycled to a few sea front places and just asked. Apart from being told to "Clear Off" from Gorleston's old Elmhurst Court Holiday Camp, we mostly got a decent hearing.

I ended up at a kiosk on Gorleston's sea front selling ice creams, seaside rock and, how shall I put it, "men's magazines". It was a heady combination for a 14-year-old! I was told by the proprietor that if anyone from the council turned up and asked me, I was to say I was 15 and was only working part of the day.

No one ever did. I worked all day and during the summer holidays, six full days a week. I loved it. I had a fridge full of choc ices and Strawberry Mivvis, every colour and shape of rock with Gorleston running through it and endless reading matter. This was the summer of 1967 and with my first week's pay-packet, which thrillingly held just over six quid, I bought a transistor radio that then sat on top of the ice cream fridge, tuned into the pirate radio stations. I was inspired. The rest is history.

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I did this for two summers and in the winter stacked shelves at a supermarket every Saturday and occasional evenings. It never occurred to me that I shouldn't work while being at school. My friends did the same. It was the norm.

The money was useful although if you ask me now, I can't recall what I spent it on. More importantly, I learned so much, not about selling ice creams, nor stacking shelves, I learned about life, how to interact with people and the cut and thrust of a grown-up workplace.

It was different from home and school. I was loaned to the supermarket's butchery department to wrap the meat. Straightaway I had to deal with a grumpy woman who had been there a long time and took great pleasure in bossing me about.

The butchers "initiated" me by tossing a couple of pig's ears at me to wrap, telling me a lady in a green coat had asked for them. I wandered round the store accosting a few startled ladies in green before it dawned on me, I'd been set up. The butcher lads were in hysterics. I laughed too. There was another stunt involving a pig's tail, but I'd best not go into that.

I learned how to talk to someone in authority and in the end, respect them. I found I liked doing a job well. The supermarket's tinned fruit aisle was my pride and joy and held up as a fine example of a neat and attractive display of peach slices, pineapple chunks and those dinky little tins of fruit salad.

The check-out girls fussed around me and made me blush with over-graphic tales about their boyfriends. In a way, I grew up and needed to. I learned to deal with people and situations that would never come up during a double geography period at Yarmouth's Grammar School. When I did start work properly, I had something to draw on.

So, I worry for the teenagers studying with their heads down and when they do raise them, pouring over social media. I've been on the receiving end of the clamour for work experience and I've pulled a few favours myself to get it for family members, but it's not the same as properly earning money and opening a pay packet. Work experience is fine, but you can't beat the experience of work.

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