Dear students, family, and friends
My name is Mrs Kitching, and I am the Class 10 guardian. It was my privilege to organize a factory experience for the students.
Three weeks ago, on an early morning, the class 10 students were waiting for a supervisor to show them the place where they would work, like any new employee with little skill or experience on their first day. I had asked them what their expectations were, and indeed, they were most apprehensive about their first day in a real workplace.
They were gently thrown into the working world of a factory, where they could experience long working hours, rules and regulations, and how it is all managed. To this effect they made daily commentary of their experience in the form of a journal: they inquired about the chain of command, the handling of machines or chain work, the floor plan of the factory, and got to meet the people alongside whom they worked.
We do not want them to just superficially touch on what the working world could be and come back elated and with many grand naive ideas; but rather to immerse themselves in what the working world of a factory today actually is, in its most challenging form, in all its one-sidedness, so they know it for what it actually is: straining and trying – with some fun and a sense of achievement along the way. We hope that in gaining an understanding of the world of production as it is today, they can be motivated to shape it further in something new.
The factory environment is preferable because the working conditions are physically harder than in a designer’s office, where the psychological pressure of deadlines over one employee would be invisible to a trainee. Indeed the effect of repetitive work on one’s body is keenly felt, whereas the impact of stress takes a little longer to become apparent.
Of course, in two weeks there is little sense of what it would be for years, yet the students met people who have done it for years.
They gain an understanding of how many people it takes – all collaborating – to achieve a large-scale goal.
Apart from the fact that the students worked hard, they were in contact with the newest technologies which make the world we live in possible. Many processes have evolved throughout the ages, and where at first, an employee was at considerable risk for their lives using machines, improvements have been made. I am thinking of my own experience in a paper factory in France, where it would not be rare to see someone with missing fingers because of the guillotines. Nowadays, the blade cannot be lowered without pressing two buttons at once. And many machines could still be improved.
Increasingly « clever » machines can replace most jobs that were done by hand, and these are mesmerizing to watch. The students learn much about « how » things are made.
Social questions arise in the young person: which jobs should be automated, and at what price? Who dreams of repeating the same gesture over and over for a career? Efficient production is key to the modern world, yet when the sewing machine was eventually widely manufactured at the end of the 19th century, riots broke out in the cities of the world. And there is a difference between a factory made garment and a tailored suit.
There is also a social problem that arises with regard to one’s self-realisation and the social situation of lesser skilled workers. The students see it answered by the diverse solutions that are implemented to give better working experience to the employees on the floor: a better design of the floor plan, better working conditions, and safer environment, or a better chance for promotion within the factory. Who knows, maybe our students could make a big difference to the people working for them, or to the people for whom they work.
Tonight is the result of much work and the conclusion of this factory experience in the form of individual speeches that allow the students to express their journey and insights.
Before I leave the floor to my students, I would like to congratulate them on the solid work ethic they have demonstrated as a group. Whenever I have visited a factory, the supervisors only had positive comments on the students, sometimes even comparing them with other trainees, and telling me how they were not afraid of hard work. I would like also to thank the parents, who have driven around a lot, the supervisors who have kindly given their time to the students and my colleagues who have helped shape their speech.
– Clémence Kitching