What is good work? Could you discuss it with your tutor group?

What is good work? Could you discuss it with your tutor group?

Friday 12th May 2017

In a recent set of blogs on the RSA website, Mathew Taylor poses many questions in his blog series 'What is Good Work?' It's easy to be glib and say something along the line of it's different things to different people. We can all grab Maslow's hierarchy, however, I want to take a few moments to consider what we should be be thinking about when talking to pupils about their forthcoming working lives.

My intention is to provide a few questions to provoke discussion with and amongst pupils to enable them to consider what 'good work' is to them. Who know's it might even prompt you to consider what good work is to you.

It's easy to plug the 'academic route'

If you work in a school, it's very easy to fall into the trap of recommending the traditional A Level, University route. After all, it's the route that's served teachers well for centuries. Should you be asking yourself, is it the best for the particular young person I'm talking to? (N.B. The statutory guidance says any information & advice given to pupils should be the most appropriate for them)

1) What is the wage differential between somebody who has a degree and a person who has a higher apprenticeship or other professional qualification?
2) Is the student debt going to affect my lifestyle? E.g. Will I be able to get a mortgage whilst I've not paid off my loans?
3) What alternatives are there to going to university?

The realities of 21st C work patterns

What are the realities of work in the 21st C? It's pretty much accepted now that jobs for life are a thing of the past, 9-5 Monday to Friday working is a rarity but what will young people's experience of working be?

  • What is the gig economy?
  • What affect will contracting or self employment have on my lifestyle?
  • What effect will automation & artificial intelligence have on my working life?
  • Will I need to constantly update my knowledge & skillset?


This kind of follows on from the last point - Will my needs for security be met by the kind of job I'm interested in?

  • Will I need to be self employed or contracting?
  • Are there jobs available in the *local labour market *or will I need to relocate for work?
  • How would relocation affect my social and family life?

Work/Life balance

This is something that I find young people fail to grasp, The link between the career they pursue and the life they live. Not just in terms of income but other areas. I tend to steer clear of recommendations but I'll make an exception here. I've used the resource The Real Game to demonstrate this to young people for a number of years, the section called the dream cloud sets the scene but then getting together in groups to plan a holiday throws up other problems such as everyone having differing budgets, more or less holiday entitlement or flexibility etc.

  • Is it important for me to be able to 'keep up' with my peers financially?
  • Will I be able to work locally or will I need to move or travel?


Finally the, in my opinion, most important thing. What satisfaction will I get from this job?

  • What needs do I need my job to fulfill? E.g. knowing I'm helping others, providing security, being creative etc.
  • Can I do a job that won't fulfill my needs, that is it provides money to exist but doesn't do anything else for me?
  • What is the purpose of work?

I've highlighted a few terms in bold that you may like to find definitions for before having discussions with pupils.

A link to Matthew Taylor's original blog