Illustration by Luke Spooner
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Parents and children are queuing up at the school gates, which are still locked. The camera crew are setting up their equipment, aimed to open on those gates and then pan over the school. The reporter has her pristine make-up and hair touched up by someone with great expertise. The make-up artist steps away as the reporter takes her place in front of the camera.
'Rolling!' the camera operator calls. He counts down with his fingers as the headteacher unlocks the school gates – five, four, three, two...
'Children are running into their schools with excitement. Today is the day they have been looking forward to for a long time.
It's Career Day.'
Cut to a pan of the school hall.
'The advisors are taking their places in the school hall and plugging in their scanners. The tables are being set up and broken down into categories: Medicine, Sciences, Animals, Education, Politics, Finance and Media.
'Already, pupils and parents are lining up at the doors with excitement and anticipation- they have been waiting for this day since that first day in the hospital, after their newborn child is inserted with their Career Chip. Today is the day they learn what that chip says, which will determine what the child will study and ultimately do as a career.'
The camera cuts to the reporter, who is standing with a middle-aged man in a tweed suit. He looks extremely sombre and business-like. He is a familiar face to a lot of viewers, as he has done several of these types of interviews over the years.
'With us today is Professor Duncan Willows, who is leader of the team for this region that develops the information for the chips.'
'Hello.' Professor Willows ducks his head in a curt greeting.
'Thank you for joining us for Career Day. Could you share with our viewers how this process works?'
'Yes, it's all down to meticulous research of the market, of the economy.' Willows looks directly into the camera, making eye contact with everyone watching at home, 'My team and I look at the market trends of the past and use them to formulate a very clear hypothesis of what jobs and careers will be of most use in the future. We then compare those to the current birth rate and divide those careers depending on population density.'
'So these careers are decided when the child is born, yet they don't find out what those careers are until the beginning of Year 7. Why aren't the parents told right away?'
Professor Willows shifts position on his seat. The school seats are not comfortable, developed especially to discourage a lack of focus stemming from comfort.
'Well, there has been a lot of debate on the subject. Some argue that parents would like a head start in preparing their child for their future careers by tailoring their education earlier. However, the general consensus of the government is that children should have some sort of general education at the beginning of their lives before settling into their career training. Experts have agreed that some academic freedom is beneficial.'
'So, up until today, the children experience a broad curriculum, which then changes when their career revealed. Have there been any cases where children have disliked the career chosen for them?'
'In the beginning, there was some resistance to the idea, mainly from parents. But as the years have gone on, children and parents alike have seen how great this system has been for the economy and ensuring everyone is suitable for the workplace. The system in place before created too many individuals who were trained for jobs we didn’t need. Now, that problem has been solved.'
'I have personally experienced this education myself, receiving my journalism training not long after my career chip was scanned. It felt really streamlined and I’ve felt very lucky to get that headstart. Could you tell us a bit more about how this new system came to be, how it compares to the old system?'
'The old system was a mess!' Willows laughs heartily, 'Children were just expected to find their jobs by themselves after years of scrambling around "trying to find themselves". That approach was ineffective for a very long time.'
'What was the turning point for the Education Minister to make this change? You must admit, it was quite a drastic change.'
'Yes, well, the catalyst for this was Britain’s exit from the European Union. A lot of EU citizens were either deported or left of their own volition, and a lot of British Nationals followed suit. Vital jobs such as doctors, nurses, teachers, dentists, electricians, builders and so forth… the staff shortages verged on crisis level. It became far too expensive to import labour. Unemployment also became a bigger problem because some careers became less financially viable. It was decided that our department should be set up to ensure the next generation are prepared for the workforce. It started off as a registration system but, when people started hacking into the database to make changes, the chip was developed.'
'Thank you for your time, Dr Willows. All our viewers appreciate learning more about this. The Career Day is now underway and children are collecting their career packets. Let’s speak to a few of them.'
'Hello there, can you tell us your name?'
'Hi Stephen! You seem very happy today, did you get a career result that you wanted?'
'I’m going to be a fire-fighter.'
'That’s wonderful. What subjects have you been given for next year?'
His mother interjects,
'He'll be doing a lot of science- chemistry, physics, human biology. He'll be doing a lot of physical education to make him big and strong, isn't that right, Stephen?'
Stephen nods eagerly. Behind him is a little girl, who runs past him and to her parents. She is waving an envelope,
'I'm going to be a doctor!' Her mum cheers as the little girl runs into her arms.
'The room is filled with cheering parents and children, and it's shaping to be yet another successful Career Day.'
As the scanned children leave the school, Stephen looks up to his mother,
'Mum, how long until my piano lesson?' he asks.
'Stephen, sweetie, you won't be having your piano lessons anymore.'
He stops walking, his face dropping. Stephen's mother turns around to look at her son. Her face softens when she sees the look on his face.
'Darling, you're going to be a fireman, remember? Firefighters don't need to play the piano- that's useless for your future.'
Stephen nods, a few tears trickle down his face before he can stop them. As they walk away from the school, he looks at other downcast children in the playground. Many are crying over their envelopes as their favourite things- footballs, ballet shoes, sketchpads, clarinets- are locked into a cupboard that will never open for them again.