THE BLACK BRITISH CLERICAL WORKERS’ RESPONSE: Educational Qualification

Participants indicated that the single most important grounds that limit them from looking for another job are educational qualification. Telu narrates below how she lost a well paid job because she did not have the relevant educational qualification:

I saw this advertisement in the Daily Telegraph newspaper three months ago for a senior clerical officer post.

The person’s specification was for someone with five years experience and I got more experience. I applied for the job and was invited for interview, but unfortunately I wasn’t given the job because I didn’t have the relevant educational qualification. After this experience, I promised myself I will undertake a certificate course in customer services and combined with my practical experience, getting a well paid job will be easy for me (Telu)

Telu’s comment shows how competitive the job market is for older people to get a job. Despite her experience, she was not offered a job. Later Telu confirmed she went for a feedback after the interview and was told the employer had decided at the last minute to employ someone younger with four O-levels (Mathematics, English, Science and Computer studies) because of the task involved and that she did not fit that characteristic.

Participants who had been working for more than fifteen years with the same local authority indicated that when they first joined local authority there was no emphasis as such on educational qualification. Instead the job requirement or personal specification was based on practical work experience, skill, and knowledge. However, due to increasing competitions among UK local authorities, standard has since been raised to accommodate customer demands. Hence the recruitment of clerical officer position now requires the ownership of a relevant educational qualification. However, the implications for older black British clerical workers who have been employed on the basis of their practical experience without any professional or educational qualification is that they are unable to further their employment careers or to change job without undertaking further training courses to make them employable. Below Olab narrates from a participant’s perspective about her experiences at work:

When I join this council twenty years ago, not enough people were coming here to work, so I was lucky to get this job without obtaining the relevant educational qualification. I saw a job advert last week for a senior clerical officer post in another local authority, even though I have the required experience, I couldn’t apply for the job because the employer wanted a candidate with GCE qualification in English and Mathematic, and I didn ’t have any of them (Olab)

Here Olab demonstrates how she has been disappointed in the past for not having the appropriate educational qualification. As a result, she is now attending a computer training course so as to get back on the job market. In support of Olab, below Azee narrates her experience:

Few weeks ago I started an evening course in business studies to make myself employable in other fields in case I was made redundant. I believe I could use the qualification to get another job elsewhere; otherwise it’s going to be difficult for me to change job or further my employment career (Azee)

Olab’s and Azee’s narratives indicate that educational qualification is a major characteristic for older black British clerical workers wishing to change job or who had attained the required practical experience but lack the educational qualification. Therefore, it is vital for older black British workers who had the practical experience but no educational qualification to think of obtaining an educational qualification if they wish to change job or further their employment careers. In so doing they are able to compete equally with other candidates in the job market.

In conclusion, participants were asked at the end of each interview to narrate their work experiences, for example:

(A) Give three reasons why they stay with the same organization?

At this juncture participants indicated they were concerned about their future, family, and especially their pension; for that reason they were prepared to take a lower paid job with the same organization. Another reason for staying was because of the flexible working scheme available and also being loyal to the organization. For those participants working from home, they indicated the decision to stay with the same organization was based on the work/life balance scheme available, that allows them to combine their work, family, and personal life. Qasi, a home worker, made the following comment below:

I have worked in other local authorities, and I must confess working two days from home is a flexibility other local authorities would not allow me to have and that is the reason I have decided to stay with this local authority (Qasi)

(B) Give me three reasons why you must go?

At this point participants indicated that one of the reasons they would like to leave the organization is because they needed to move higher so that they could improve their family well-being. Participants also indicated that they have decided to go for their own contentment, happiness, and the desire to fulfil their expectations. Furthermore, participants indicated that they must leave because they needed to achieve the goals of their life e.g. managerial position. Soul put it this way:

I am only 20 years, and I plan to buy my own house, get married, and have children. There is no way I am going to survive on my current salary and on the type of life style I want to live (Soul)

(C) Give me three ways in which being black has affected your experience at work?

Here participants indicated that being a black British worker has made them to stay focused in all challenging situations. It was pointed out during interviews that being a black British worker with strong African accent has its drawbacks and so it was difficult for them to secure the job they really wanted. Adet narrates his experience below:

Two days ago I saw a man named David Smith at our Access-point. After spending more than ten minutes talking to him and explaining our company policy, this man stood up and said he didn’t understand a word I have been saying to him.

“Why didn’t you say you don’t understand me, instead of waiting for me to finish, ” I asked?

“I’m sorry, can I speak to your manager please? ” he replied.

“My manager is at lunch at the moment, ” I commented.

He yelled at me saying, “But I don’t understand your accent, it’s too strong for me. Can’t you get someone else that speaks good English? ” he added.

I was furious inside me but couldn’t show it. I was assertive and told him everyone is busy and not available.

At the end, the man slam the door so hard I thought the ceiling would come down on me (Adet)

Adet’s story is typical of a person not born in the UK, with strong African accent. About 80% of the participants indicated that being a black worker has affected them personally because of their cultural upbringing and background, thus being expected to behave in a manner that is different from other staff members. Finally, 60% participants pointed out that to be a black British worker it means you have to work extra hard to prove that you are better than the rest of the employees. In contrast, about 30% believe things have changed and so there are chances of one being assessed based on ability to do the job, rather than by skin colour.