Vocational Guidance for adolescents

Its so difficult to know what to put a boy to nowadays, is the complaint heard often on the lips of parents. It is. Often enough the boy himself has no definite ideas as to the job he would prefer, while parents do not know either what work he would do best, or how to get him in if they do. Wliat are the prospects? What is the cost of the training? These are further bothering questions.

With girls the position is rather easier, as the range of occupations is more limited, and in most cases they will only pursue them for a few years, until marriage. But even for them it is most important to make a wise choice between, say, secretarial work or nursing, shop or factory.

Happily, far-reaching efforts are now being made to fit the square peg in the square hole. Vocational guidance, skilled advice as to careers, often based on carefully designed testa of young peoples capacities for various kinds of work, is now being given to school children in various places all over the country. The movement is jet in its infancy, but sufficient is being done, and the results are so encouraging, that it can be said that no boy or girl need now go into a definitely unsuitable job.

The National Institute of Industrial Psychology, Aldwych House, London, W.C.2., will test any boy or girl of suitable age, either at home or at the Institute, with a view to giving advice as to occupations. A fee is charged, but it is little compared with the value of getting a boy or girl into a thoroughly congenial job in which he or she has every prospect of making good. The tests, which are constantly being improved, have been used in various experiments with schoolchildren who have been followed-up in employment during as long as three years. Possible occupations for boys in one of these experiments were arranged in nine groups, for girls in seven groups, under the three main headings. (I) Mental work. (ii) Social work (work dealing with people such as shop assistants, nurses, etc.). (iii) Manual work.

In each of the nine groups specific occupations were listed.

The Central Employment Bureau for Women and Students Careers Association publishes Careers and Vocational Training (2s.), which deals informatively with practically every career an educated girl could consider, from engineering to beauty culture. A special feature of this work is the attention paid to the physical and mental characteristics required in each job. Careers for our Sons is a useful handbook published periodically by Messrs. A. and C. Black.

LATER YOUTH (16-18) DY the age of 16 a boy or a girl will be in one of three cases as regards the business of making a livelihood. He or she left school at fourteen and has been in work for anything up to two years; is just about to leave school, or, is going to remain under full-time education for another year, two years, or more.

Each case presents to parents different problems, with which we shall deal in turn. The point we wish to make here is that no matter whether a boy or a girl is in case (1), (n) or (m) the facts of physical and mental growth remain the same. In particular we wish to draw attention to mental growth; as regards physical growth, these are years of filling-out and settling-down which present no difficulty or cause for anxiety.

The long, lanky girl, the awkward, clumsy boy, all arms and legs, gradually become rounded into normal young adult figures, a process that frequently results in the development of beauty of face and form in the girl, of good looks and manliness in the boy.

This is Natures way of malting each attractive to the other – and incidentally of causing parents, and boys and girls themselves – a very great deal of pride and joy – and not infrequently of trouble. For alongside this maturing of the body there comes the growing up of the mind.

Two purely adult driving forces now begin to dominate life; the drive to get on, to succeed, to make a way in life, to get the utmost enjoyment out of life, and the drive to have companionship with the opposite sex. For the sake of simplicity, let us call these drives, Ambition and Love.

Now, the more satisfactorily these two natural desires can be fed, the more normal and happy is going to be youths life between 16 and 18, and onwards. Unfortunately, circumstances often seem to conspire to raise as many obstacles as possible to a normal satisfaction of ambition and love. It is our purpose here to deal briefly with some of these obstacles. First with ambition, treating boys and girls under the three heads we have classified above.

Juvenile Workers. We call juvenile workers those who left school at 14 to begin work. Sixteen is an important milestone for them, for then they become insurable under the National Unemployment and Health Insurance Schemes, according to which they will be classified as Juveniles until the 18th birthday.

With the boy or the girl who at 14 entered into apprenticeship and is progressing satisfactorily, or those who are still in their first or second job and are making their way steadily, we need spend little time. They are all right; ambition is being satisfied.

Three other common cases, however, quite rightly cause grave anxiety to parents. First, the boy or girl who, though quite good at the jobs he or she takes up, settles in none, and at 16 has not yet found a permanency; second, the more unfortunate youngsters who have been dismissed from a variety of job3 for incompetency or carelessness; and third, those who at 14 got into a dead-end occupation, or blind-alley job, and are dismissed the moment they become eligible for insurance, other fourteen-year-olds taking their places.

The third case is straightforward enough; the only thing to do is to make the best of a bad business, and start again.

Unhappily, this is by no means easy, particularly to-day, when employment is scarce; but the mistake was made at 14, and is not irreparable at 16, especially if the boy or girl has courage and determination.

The other two cases present dilficulties other than the material ones. Changing from job to job is unsettling; it may be, and often is, done lightheartedly between 14 and 16, but by the latter ago the youngster is beginning to get into one of two states of mind. Either he has the opinion that he can pick and choose his work as he pleases, or he is beginning to feel despondent at his ill success; in this latter case he is drifting towards a state in which he will become unemployable, because he will literally be fit for nothing.

If instability, or a feeling of inferiority leading to unemployability, become a set habit of mind between 16 and 18, then it will be exceedingly difficult to get rid of it afterwards, because these are the years in which it is essential that a steady, forward-looking, ambitious outlook should be formed.

Instability is ambition dissipated, wasting itself on too many interests; a sense of inferiority is ambition thwarted. Instability means that the young man or the young woman is growing into adulthood with the mind and character of a child. The sense of inferiority leads only too often to juvenile delinquency and crime; if not that, to inferior, badly-paid and unsatisfying work, or constant unemployment.

What we have called ambition is the urge to be up and doing something really worth while, something that will attract attention, will make the person concerned feel that he is somebody. This urge can be thwarted, of natural expression, but that does not mean that it will be extinguished; except in unusually dull people, it means that it will break out in some less desirable way.

It can find its full natural outlet only in desirable work which offers prospects of permanency and promotion, for the mind of the juvenile worker, who has been out in the world for some little time, is now directed towards what is a fully adult preoccupation, the earning of a living.

The problem is obviously to find that desirable work. We have previously referred to vocational guidance and how it may be obtained. We suggest that no efforts be spared to settle finally between 16 and 18 those boys and girls who have hitherto proved misfits or unsettled, and that as far as may be possible their own desires may be taken into account.

Leaving School at 16. The mind of the boy or the girl leaving a secondary school at sixteen will in all probability be far less developed as regards ideas of work and livelihood than that of the juvenile worker; quite naturally so, because he or she has not yet been brought up against the practical problem.

But the urge behind that mind is precisely the same, though it is expressing itself in different ways. It is ambition, the desire to be grown up and doing adult-things, that is behind the wish to start work quickly, to throw awajr the school cap or uniform, to start smoking cigarettes (if that has not already begun), to handle money of ones own in larger quantities, to be free of all the restrictions both home and school impose upon the school child. As the youth or girl who leaves school at 16 starts later as a wage-earner than the juvenile worker, it is all the more essential to secure the right occupation for him or her. As a result of more extended education a far greater range of posts with prospects is open; and the choice is by no means limited, as so many parents seem to imagine, to black-coated occupations, the bank or the office. On the contrary, owing to increasing mechanization of office work, black-coated jobs are getting rapidly scarcer; but as industry becomes more scientific and complex, posts for skilled workers are increasing. But these are only for qualified men and women; and the first step in almost every qualification is a matriculation certificate. The 3routh who leaves school at 16 should possess that. If he does not, then it is up to him to get it at the earliest possible moment. Many secondary schools keep those who have failed at a first venture another term or so specially to enter them again.

Many secondary school boys and girls have quite definite ideas as to the careers they wish to pursue, but probably more have not. They have their growing ambitions, but these seem to careful parents to be out of all touch with reality. In the conflict which ensues between parents and children at such a point many promising ambitions are thwarted; and, as we have said before, thwarted ambition will always manifest itself in undesirable fashion.

If it docs not show itself in reckless or insubordinate behaviour, it will show itself in a concentration upon matters of second-rate importance, upon becoming, for example, the star footballer in some team, or the leading light in the local dramatic society. Such ambitions are, of course, quite desirable when it is clear that they are subsidiary to the main occupation, that of qualifying to become an efficient worker.

This question of qualification as a wage-earner is beyond all doubt of the very first importance during the years 16-18, because upon the satisfactory solution of that question depends practically everything else. One of the most obvious results of an increasingly scientific civilization is that fewer and fewer ambitions can be realized unless the worker can work right up to the limit of his ability and qualifications.

Of the secondary school youth leaving at 16 who holds a matriculation certificate two certainties may be asserted. There are very few ways of earning a living which are not open to him; and there are equally very few in which he has much chance of high promotion unless he is ready to continue his education with as much vigour as he can muster.

So much of the splendid ambition possessed by our boys and girls when they leave school at 16 is dissipated because neither they nor their parents realize that a secondary school education is not an end in itself. It is only a beginning; it opens a door that otherwise would remain closed or could only be opened at the cost of colossal effort.

Boys and girls leave school at 16 and take the nearest job; and for two years or BO have a good time. Their work, being new, interests them for awhile; then they grow to accept it as all in the days march. Meanwhile games, dances, cinemas, hiking, absorb all their energies; and it is only at 18 or later that they wake up to find that they are being left behind in the race, and are losing chances that may never recur again.

The result again is thwarted ambition, which results in the disappointed man, the railer against luck, every sort of failure, and in extreme cases the criminal, the man who, having decided that society has not given him a fair chance, determines to take it out of society. Most habitual criminals begin their careers between 16 and 21.

Remaining at School. Of the boys and girls who remain in full-time education between 16 and 18 there are two kinds: those who remain in secondary schools, and those who are taking full – time day courses in university colleges, technical colleges, etc. Of those remaining at secondary schools there are again two kinds, those in boarding schools and those in day schools.

Each environment, boarding school, day school, or technical college, has its distinct eifect upon the growing ambition; the authorities in day and boarding schools, and those in technical and other colleges to a lesser degree, carefully and deliberately endeavour to produce the right effect by giving these maturing boys and girls, in addition to studies in accordance with their aptitudes, some measure of adult responsibility, as prefects or monitors, and in the running of their school games, recreations, and other pursuits.

The keeping of a boy or girl at school after the age of sixteen usually implies the definite selection of a career for which continued study is required, or preparation for a university. In either case ambition is or ought to be largely satisfied, for retention at school after 16 implies belief in the possibility of selective and skilled work later on.

The problems which arise in such cases usually arise because of a conflict due to ! rules and regulations becoming irksome to a maturing and naturally eager mind. It is not at all unusual for boys in particular to have a very disturbed period about 17 largely because the ideas – social, political, religious – which they acquire in a swarm without fully understanding them, are unsettling them.


That is by no means the case. The reaction to the urge of ambition of the juvenile worker, the school leaver, and the student, during the years 16 to 18 has been shown, and the point of livelihood both because it is of first importance and also because it bulks most largely in parents minds, has been stressed.

But ambition, youths urge to be up and doing something worth while, manifests itself in a thousand other ways.

It shows itself in the innumerable sports, recreational and social clubs covering every activity open to youth: in the competitive nature of so many of the pastimes of youth: in the love of youth for sports cars, motor-cycles, and finery: in the way youth crowds to the cinemas to indulge in vicarious ambition: in the eager desire to help and to be of service shown by so many young people: and in their idealisms, their dreams and their hopes.

Sixteen to eighteen is a second period of day-dreaming; only now the dreamer is much nearer to reality. The utterly fantastical element has disappeared, and is replaced by a vision in which, certainly, difficulties are overcome with unfailing certainty. But by practical means, by stern endeavour, courage and determination, there can be the utmost value in the day-dreaming of 16 to 18; but, as we noted previously in the section on the day-dream, if it is simply a way of escape from reality, then it is a danger and leads to degeneration of character.

Other things being equal, ambition will be largely coloured by circumstances, and the less the economic pressure to earn a livelihood at an early age (whether immediately or in the near future) falls upon the youth, the more chanoo has the ambition of taking longer, broader and less materialistic flights.

Love. Under modern conditions it is not usually economically possible, nor is it considered socially desirable, for boys and girls to marry at sixteen. But the natural impulse to mate rises on the attainment of puberty, nevertheless, and is manifested more or less fully and openly according to the freedom with which boys and girls can meet together and the pressure and influence of other interests.

It is seen most clearly in boys and girls who have nothing but the streets to occupy them after their days work is done. They walk the streets deliberately in order to pair off, and such a boy or a girl thinks it a reflection upon them not to have a friend of the opposite sex. Among such boys and girls marriage takes place earlier than among any other class in the community.

When education is prolonged to 16 or 18 or later, the instinctive impulse is sublimated, that is, the natural energy which otherwise would go to wooing is absorbed by other more immediate worthy interests, working for an examination, for example, or attaining excellence in games, or shouldering responsibilities. (Wo say an instinctive impulse is sublimated when it is directed into useful channels, perverted when being thwarted along natural lines it is turned into un-desirable ones.)

The loftiest form of sublimation is manifested when a young person, boy or girl, devotes himself or herself with such enthusiasm to some altruistic cause, to some ideal, such as missionary or social work, that all idea of courtship and marriage vanishes, and the energy of a lifetime is given to the cause.

That the natural impulse is still almost overpoweringly strong will be recognized when we realize how rarely in life this single-minded devotion to a cause occurs voluntarily, and how frequently and easily even young people between 1G and 18 with abundance of other interests succumb to the attractions of the opposite sex.

It will be seen also by observant readers how all causes combine to blend ambition and love in the young. The very nature of the relationship of the sexes makes the man ambitious for wealth and power, the woman for ease and comfort in which to bear and rear her children. Our idea of marriage wholly reinforces this natural tendency, and the great and glorious idea of chivalry, grandest of all the conceptions of the Middle Ages, brings all our highest spiritual aspirations within the scope of ambition and love.

Needless to say, our boys and girls are wholly, or almost wholly, unconscious of this complex of forces which drives them to varied lines of conduct according to the circumstances in which they find themselves. But it is these forces, modified by the particular environment and upbringing to which they are subjected, which are responsible for the ideals, the enthusiasms, the energy, the spurts of endeavour, the erratic conduct or steady concentration, the open companionships or illicit flirtations, the rebellions and insubordinations, of our 16- to 18-year-olds.

A Period of Ideas. Just as the years 7 to 12 are a time during which the desire to create, to make things, is overmastering, and things have got to be made, though lack of skill and practice makes per- formance lag (to adult eyes) sadly behind promise, so 16 to 18 is a period of ideas, in which again actual performance, the putting of ideas into action, of necessity lags.

Youth has a purpose before it now; the achievement of manhood. To reach that purpose the world must be understood, in all its aspects, economic, social, political, religious. Unless the mind is too dull, or has been already blunted by the hardness of the struggle to gain a living, or is distracted by the multitude of cheap pleasures offered to it, youth starts in now to understand the world, to get hold of the meaning of this schome of things of which it now feels itself to be a part, or shortly to be a part.

No reading is too difficult, no discussion too profound, for the 17- or 18-ycar-old to tackle. Each mind seeks its own solution in its own way; some turn to science, some to philosophy, others to art, music or literature, but each is seeking to solve the riddle of the universe, each is striving to achieve mastery.

Out of that struggle is born all progress. Man is master of the world because throughout all ages that struggle has never ceased. Generation after generation youth has burned to know and to understand, and though in each generation most give up the struggle for ideas always a few persist throughout life.

The greatest service we can render our young people is to encourage them to go on thinking, and to make it possible for them to do so.

Treatment of Later Youth. We have now dealt briefly with the forces of ambition and love which urge on our young people, and shown a little of the modes of conduct and the ideas to which these drive them. We have been compelled to over-simplify and to analyse what is in reality excessively complex and particularly unanalysable; particu- larly, we have had to treat separately of what wo have termed ambition and love, although ambition may be a derivative from love in its widest sense.

We have done this in order to attempt to demonstrate the immense importance of the mental growth which takes place during these years, and in the years to follow, for it must be remembered that our halt at 18 is an arbitrary one due to the fact that schooldays end then. It remains to consider briefly the treatment of boys and girls during these years.

Clearly, that will depend very greatly upon our treatment of them during preceding years. Any sudden change, however desirable in theory, is likely to be attended with danger. In particular, children who have been strictly brought up, that is, who have been in any way very much shielded and protected from contact with the outside world, should not suddenly be thrown upon their own resources.

But, other things being equal, if we can now treat our children as grown-ups and as our companions on the same level with us, and entitled to all our privileges without being expected to share quite all our responsibilities, we shall be doing well by them.

During these years a boy should come to regard his father as the wisest and best friend he knows; not, perhaps, his companion of his lighter hour3, but the friend to whom he can always turn when he is in any perplexity or difficulty. He should ccme to regard his mother with a love akin to veneration, not only because of her quick perception of his more intimate troubles and the depth of her love for him, but also because she is a woman, and the woman who gave something of her strength to bear him and bring him up.

A girl should come to regard her mother as her example as well as counsellor. But the father plays a vitally important part in this process, even though he be unconscious of it, for if she discovers in him qualities of gentleness, protectiveness, kindly strength and companionship, she is less likely to choose a man of opposite character as her husband.

Cinema, Children and the. Much has been written and said of recent years about the harm children may get from the cinema.

At one time it was popular to ascribe all juvenile crime to it. Recent careful investigations have shown that this danger is much exaggerated, and that the real one is that children and young people gain from the pictures of high life, with their gangsters, murders, excitements, and over-hectic love-making, a wrong idea of what life is really like.

Sir Herbert Samuel stated in the House of Commons on April 15, 1932, that his very expert and experienced advisers at the Home Office are of the opinion that on the whole the cinema conduces more to the prevention of crime than its commission.

Experienced judges of children in cinemas have made the following comments, vide The Film in National Life, the Report of the Enquiry of the Commission on Educational and Cultural Films:

The children of to-day are as much entitled to their crooks as the children of yesterday to their bandits. A child needs phantasy, and can get it healthily from the films. All too few films have the heroic quality. Too often they are concerned with the He-Man and the Good Woman – a pinchbeck substitute. Slapstick comedy, where men sit on each others hats and turn fire hoses on their employers, is healthy and a delight to a child. It is miscalled vulgar. What is vulgar and offensive to childhood is the social comedy . . . where men in other peoples bedrooms bide in cupboards from their wives.

The Wild West melodrama seems to me as a rule to be perfectly harmless; even the sex film may do no harm, for the simple reason that a child docs not understand half what is being said. Passionate kisses simply give them the giggles. What they do object to is coarseness . . . the crude, sneaking coarse-ness which the chidren recognize at once. There are many nature films which I would never think of showing to children. A child gets a nightmare for a week if he sees the head of an ant magnified a hundredfold.

Large numbers of children have been asked their opinions about the films they like. Wild West films are always popular, especially with boys, who like also war and adventure. Girls dislike war films very much, but like adventure. Comedy and farce do not attract children under 14 highly. Topicals, travelogues, nature and animal films are not very popular. Boys very much dislike love stories; girls adore them.

The stuffy, smoky atmosphere in some cinemas is not good for children, while sitting in the front seats places definite strain on the eyes owing to the glare, the flicker, and the fact that the children have to be looking steeply upwards and often sideways. It would be better if children under 7-8 were not allowed to visit cinemas more than once per week, and then early in the evening if not in the afternoon.

Important experiments are being con-ducted to develop the use of the film in schools, and it is likely that within a few years most schools will possess their own cinema.