What is it with qualifications these days? Everyone seems to need them for whatever they do and I think from that we give too much importance to those who are able to gain the qualifications and those who have the skills but either not the academic ability or just haven’t had the time.
The reason I am pondering this at the moment is to do with my work with Youthshedz. Two of the people I work with have both said to me on separate occasions “but I’m not a youth worker”, meaning they don’t have the qualifications. I’ve done a lot of youth work in my time [and still don’t have the degree for it] and have worked with some who have degrees, Masters and even PhDs in youth work, and yet these two people that I’m having the privilege to work with now have such skills with the young people, such empathy, life skills and life experience. Both have got stories to tell of their past and remember what it is like to be young. They aren’t doing youth work to these young people but are down with them, learning along with them, getting their hands dirty, seeing their own issues and changing as they go. The young people love them, respect them and want to be with them. To my mind if that isn’t qualification then I don’t know what is.
But I do think since Tony Blair’s “50% of the school leavers will get to University” bid back in Sept 1999 did so much harm to learning. It put qualifications on a pedestal. No longer a place for those who are very academic and want to study a subject to a higher level, but an expected place for all young people and a failure if they don’t reach it. But also it said to everyone else who, like the people I am working with, that if you don’t have the piece of paper then be careful what you say you are.
As you can see from the above picture I graduated in 2014 after my son had left home and my daughter was in her first year at university. I didn’t intend to go to university, but I loved it and gained much from it. I have since gained a PGDip in Using creative writing for therapeutic purposes, which I use the concepts often in my writing workshops, and have completed two years of a Celtic studies MA, looking at Medieval history and literature in Wales and Ireland, which I incorporate into my writing. What I noticed when I was doing my BA was that so many of the mature students were totally paranoid and fixated about getting a first, yet when I talked to people who had graduated before me they were saying that employers looked highly on mature students even if they had only gained a third because of their life experiences.
It is not the piece of paper that makes you good at your job but your experiences. Yet unfortunately it could be that piece of paper that gets you the extra money. Please can we go back to valuing the skills not the ability to pass qualifications?