I absolutely love this whole studying thing. Until now, the most difficult aspect thus far is working out which book to reach for when I have a coffee break. At the moment it’s a toss-up between Homo Deus, the red knuckle inducing follow-up to Sapiens, by Yuval Harari or Steven Pinker’s, The Better Angels of Our Nature. Alongside these options, for a little light-hearted reading I have Henry Hitchings, A History of Proper English. This is why I find it hard to get to bed at night; get up so early enough in the morning. This recently awoken grey matter has so much to read; so much to consider, analyse; internally debate and be inspired by.
Between reading such inspirational; provocative and perception questioning literature, I have to find a job; fast. I naively thought it would be easy. After all, who wouldn’t want to hire a supremely fit and agile 49-year-old guy with 37 years’ work experience? The answer is nobody apparently.
I’m flexible. I’ve applied for literally hundreds of bar jobs; retail assistant jobs and just about every other kind of job you can imagine. I’ve emphasised a willingness to work evenings, nights and weekends. I have no expectations other than minimum wage and at least 10 to 15 hours per week or more. I have no commitments except for my studies so am technically available for 152 of the 168 hours in a week. Yet not even an acknowledgement to my applications, except for the spammers and the scammers like multi-level marketing companies. Is this some form of active discrimination that I’m not aware of? Is this age discrimination or mature student discrimination? Are employers stereotyping or not even considering the added value of employing a mature student? Do they use age as a pre-selection tool in their algorithm’s? Am I the only person to experience this?
Here are just a few things that mature students offer to any employer:
Stability and flexibility; broad-ranging work experience
Common sense; great communication skills
Ability to juggle several projects at once; emotional intelligence
Problem-solving skills; life experience
They’ve probably used every version of Microsoft Office ever created; IT literate
Committed, punctual and reliable; they’ve probably sacrificed a lot to be a student
As a fellow mature student, how are you guys finding work to support your study?
Do you have any hints and tips to share with others?
Are you formatting your CVs in a different way?
Do you think that your area of study should be emphasised in your application?
Do you think there is some form of discrimination?
Please do comment and share, any help is appreciated.
“They beat him. They deprived him. They ridiculed him. They broke his heart. But they couldn’t break his spirit.” Kes, Barry Hines.
It was pretty weird, being at school back in the early 80’s. In Barnsley, a land famous for tripe, Albert Hirst Black Pudding, Brian Glover, Michael Parkinson and Dickie Bird, it was an especially strange time to be at school. The only way I can really describe it is to use the metaphor of the wild west, in 1984 it was bloody and lawless. Barnsley was a town in rebellion, the police were everyone’s enemy and open warfare was the order of the day. A miners strike was in full swing and Mrs Thatcher’s arch enemy, the Dark Lord, Yorkshire’s answer to Stalin, the Machiavellian Arthur Scargill, resided amongst us. The old saying “every day is a school day” was never more aptly applied. Just to really put the cat among the pigeons, the teacher’s unions were on strike as well. This was a socialist town, a working-class town, a distinct part of the industrial heart of England, this was The Mining Town. Men were hard, dirty, straight talking, patriarchial, tobacco chewing, spittoon kicking pitmen. They expected little and generally got even less, but they had an iron sense of community, integrity in spades and an unbreakable sense of right and wrong. This was a town at war.
Arthur Scargill, Yorkshire’s answer to Stalin
My school was called Honeywell Secondary School, an old sprawling redbrick building set on top of a swathe of playing fields. We had 4 rugby pitches, which was odd because the school PTA had banned rugby in school on the grounds it was too violent; 6 football pitches; 2 cricket fields and an indoor swimming pool. An indoor swimming pool which as a pupil I never once used. It was always rented out to the posh schools, who used to come on their coaches every day to use it. I think Honeywell kids were considered too scruffy or maybe lacking the correct standards of personal hygiene to be allowed in the water, or the School Council were taking back-handers from the private schools who came from far and wide. Honeywell had a total student roll of circa 850, it was small and intimate by comparison with today’s super-schools. It was close to the town centre area. Rather wonderfully from the perspective of a sociologist, it was literally across the road from the National Union of Miners Headquarters. It was 1984, and as yet the world bore little resemblance to Orwell’s dystopian future narrative.
My world was far from being organised and governed by some all-encompassing Big Brother. As a 16-year-old in the final year of his education, my world was one of utter chaos, political manoeuvring and social angst and all the anxieties that come with growing up fast in the world. I and my fellow classmates were racing towards our final GCSEs/CSEs and our future hopes and dreams were literally only a whisper away. Yet no one cared, it seemed. I remember distinctly 2-3 years earlier a long unnecessarily dull lecture, like being drawn at snail’s pace down a dusty road in summer, it stifled and seemed to last forever. Mr Bone, Deputy Head, a keen cricketer and occasional Math Teacher had many attributes, a strong and steady cane hand for sure, but impassioned, engaging oratory skills were not one of them. He’d waxed unlyrically about how critical the next two years of our academic life would be, how it was vital that we thought seriously about our options. One thing I remember him underlining very distinctly was that there were very few places at Barnsley 6th Form College. Only circa 10% of us would reach the required grade, the competition was tough. For the rest of us, it would be Youth Training Schemes, Apprenticeships or the living off the family allowance and becoming a scrounger. Times were bleak.
The reason it appeared as though no one actually cared was that they didn’t. My generation was essentially the sacrificial lambs, we’d been led to the slaughter by a whole raft of ideological political policies as Mrs Thatcher and her government adopted New Right ideas. The Teachers had left us high and dry, especially the kids like me who had turned 16 at the start of the academic year. There was no final year common room, which meant that during free periods or breaks there was nowhere to use for revision or study. As 16-year-olds we actually had to leave school premises at lunchtime, so we went to the pub, no school uniform for us, which meant we roamed like hooligans. If we had a free period after lunch that meant we had maybe four hours to kill. We’d have a couple of beers, play some pool and then go and join the picket lines facing off against the police on Huddersfield Road. There were also no after-school activities, which meant no extra-tutorials and no group study periods. The teachers had hit the government right where they knew it would hurt them most, they’d sacrificed my education to prove a point. To add insult to injury, Honeywell School had an old coal-fired boiler which meant through the winter months during a national coal strike the school was closed due to the freezing temperatures. None of these circumstances conspired towards a happy outcome for the disenfranchised youth of the day.
A cloud hung over Barnsley, once proud men, poor but upright and honest communities, hard but fair women had nothing but anger and resentment inside them. Some were broken, shattered and even ostracised because they’d been named as scabs. Others were in despair, lost their houses, their cars broke and idle as they’d run out of money. Images of people scavenging surface coal to light fires, illegal mine workings in the local countryside and once honest men poaching game to feed their families were all around me. Police raids to seize and arrest agitators were daily occurrences, police raids to search and arrest people for theft of Coal Board property, shovels and wheelbarrows and even coal happened every day. Imagine being sent to prison for stealing a sack of coal you had mined yourself from the local common, in 1984? The cloud that hung over Barnsley was a cloud of anger and despair, a sense of “fuck you and the world you live in”. As kids, many of us shared the sentiment. As we watched our future fade into obscurity, as the pits closed and the steel industry followed, smelting works, foundries and every associated industry and service along with them. Our only escape, our education, was being frittered away for political gain.
I left school with 1 ‘O’level and a handful of meaningless CSEs including Drama, History, Geography and Art & Design. I’d been grouped and labelled throughout my school life, as such, an opportunity for this leopard to change its spots had been very limited. I was from a broken home; was unruly and disruptive as a 7-year-old, and that had stuck with me throughout. But I’m here now, finally, at the age of 49, I’m on the first few steps towards fulfilling my academic dreams and aspirations. It is a huge challenge and I’ve impoverished myself financially to be here; to do this; to satisfy this hunger that has burned inside me for such a long time.
I’m a well lived in, well travelled 49 years old. A little moth-eaten around the edges, saggy in the face, and dusty, in many ways I’m like an undernourished Bagpuss. By the way, this isn’t my profile description for a dating site. Cantankerous, grouchy and somewhat bewildered at the world around me, friends refer to me behind my back as Victor Meldrew, a term I’m secretly rather flattered by. I’m currently completing an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Humanities and Social Sciences at Wakefield College. I’ve been offered a place at The University of Huddersfield to study Politics with Sociology this September. My long-term aspirations are to work in the field of policy advice and to influence local authority and government. I’m a huge fan of flatpack democracy, the countryside and rural communities.
As a quick background introduction, I’m a raggy lad from a council estate in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. I’m working class and proud of it, when I say I’m proud of it, I suppose I’d much rather have been Upper Class, or even Posh if I was honest. But hell, who gets to choose these things? I’m often annoyed by people who sneer at those who were more fortunate in life as if it is their fault and they should be eternally embarrassed by their good fortune. I find envy one of the least admirable personality traits. I grew up during the famous Miners Strike of 1984/5. It left a mark on me, I’m rebellious, distrustful of establishment and eternally cynical, I take nothing at face value and am annoyed by people who do.
I spent 8 years in the Coldstream Guards; have served in various theatres of war. I never got shot and as far as I know never shot anyone, although I have shot at plenty. I have dragged dead bodies out of rivers, arrested illegal immigrants on the Hong Kong borders and chased car thieves and terrorists through the streets of Belfast. I’ve lived and worked for over 20 years in the field of recruitment, talent management, executive search and consultancy. From Leeds via Bahrain through Uganda and Rwanda to Bali and East Timor, I’ve worked and travelled extensively. I’ve been as lucky as I’ve been unlucky, had amazing times and some truly awful experiences. Gone from loaded to broke and back again, and again and again. I’m currently broke. Money and material things don’t mean anything to me, except that I’ve got to eat, need a roof over my head and like a beer. Oh, I also own a wonderful English Springer Spaniel called Purdey, who walks me to death. She is my essay machine, my revision partner, when I walk her I’m revising, planning, preparing, writing introductions in my head.
I’m writing this blog as a form of expression, to help me clarify my own thoughts. To maybe share with people my experiences as a mature student along the way, to seek and show empathy with the financial challenges and to try and understand why some things are difficult and others not. I think learning, studying is a beautiful thing. This thing whereby I have to read, research, dive deep into new things, translate and conceptualise and dissect is truly alluring and life-changing. But it’s hard to do, the pressure from outside, earning enough to live on and balancing other commitments. Oh to be able to just disappear into a library, kick back and enjoy the student life as the youngsters do.