The latest unemployment figures came out last week in Scotland and, although grim reading, they didn’t paint quite as an apocalyptic picture as we’d feared.
However, turns out this is the lull before the storm as the Scottish Government said the statistics didn’t reflect the full impact of Covid-19.
That means, because of the furlough scheme and people staying at home, the full horror of what this pandemic is going to do to the job market lies just around the corner.
We’re being encouraged to think about retraining and second careers. The UK Government put an ad out suggesting a ballerina could retrain to work in the world of cyber security and the backlash was something to behold. Why should dancers, actors and artists be asked to give up the careers that they’ve worked so hard for, critics asked? The timing of the controversial campaign, so poor that even Downing Street disowned it, was certainly crass but isn’t the reality that in these unprecedented times many of us may have to reconsider our futures and think about a Plan B?
It breaks my heart to see young people fresh out of university completely stall in their careers before they even get a chance to get going. The path ahead must look rocky and insurmountable from where they’re standing. Their lives are being put on pause.
The only glimmer of positivity I can find is that we might start rethinking the idea that going to university in the first place is the be all and end all. With hindsight, I would have been better off not going. Sure, I had a great time and drank a lot of beer. And I certainly don’t regret the wonderful and enduring friendships I made there, but I do wonder how useful learning Old English really was in the great scheme of things.
I’m just speaking about my experience here, but surely we should be more encouraging of youngsters learning a trade or taking up an apprenticeship.
In happier times a mid-life career change is usually seen as an empowering move to make. I have several friends who retrained as teachers in their 40s. Just think of all the wisdom and experience they will have brought to that profession.
On a more glamorous level, I heard the former Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton speaking the other day about how becoming a jockey after she retired from competitive cycling was an epiphany for her.
She savoured every minute of her new career and couldn’t believe how lucky she’d been to get a second chance.
When you ask people what else they would like to do with their lives the answer can be quite revealing. I posed the question to my twin sister once. Bearing in mind she’s a highly skilled and adventurous doctor I was fascinated to hear her reply. Astronaut? Deep sea perhaps? Artic explorer? Eventually she answered, “I’d really like to be an accountant”.
I’ll leave you with this thought. When Donald Trump recently left hospital after being treated for the coronavirus he had apparently toyed with the idea of ripping open his shirt to reveal…a Superman costume. Now, what does that say about his career ambitions.
Rona Dougall presents Scotland Tonight on STV.
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