Ahhh, November 2nd. Take Our Kids to Work day here in Canada.
I have such fond memories which I would love to share with all of you. Good times, indeed.
For those of you not familiar, today over 200,000 grade nine students across Canada will spend the day at work, job shadowing a parent, relative, friend or volunteer host.
The intention of this program is to expose children to a work environment, giving them an opportunity to see what it is like to work for a living and in can help motivate them to either want to get into that field, or stay in school in order to get a better job.
I recall after the 2nd day of Grade 2, Linus announced to us that he was done with school, “never going back” he announced. When asked what he was going to do with his time, he simply replied, “be a manager… Like Daddy”. So there.
This day is important for employers as it is a great way to show off their organization to the future workforce and also it’s an opportunity to acknowledge and support employees as parents. Nothing makes the parents feel more in touch with their employer than being able to bring in their kids, have them hang around during the day to meet their colleagues and hopefully more senior people in the organization. It’s a win-win-win situation.
Here is my story.
While working at the government, I was asked to coordinate and lead the Take Your Kids to Work day. I’m a little bit social (I knew each of the 1100 people in our office by name) and the plan was quite simple. Meet the kids and parents in the lobby, take them to a boardroom to speak to them about what to expect that day, talk to them about the work done in the office, the role of the government and about confidential information, then take them for a tour of the office, off to have lunch with their parents and then for the afternoon they were free to sit with their parnents until the end of the day.
Very straightforward, eh?
Since the government deals with very confidential information, and all employees need very high security clearance, the tasks for the kids were quite limited. I felt the morning went very well, there were only 7 kids, and most of the morning was used up on the tour chatting with carious folks about their roles and their piece of the puzzle. The kids appreciated it and the staff we spoke to really liked the opportunity to discuss why they loved (or hated) their jobs, how long they were there and even what they liked and disliked in school.
After lunch, my job was done. I dropped off the kids with their parents and went back to my work. Something, however, told me to continue walking around to make sure the kids weren’t too bored and see if the parents needed a hand.
After seeing the last parent-child team, I sat in my desk and to my surprise when I looked up there was a grade 9 sitting in front of me at her mother’s desk typing away on the computer. At the time we only had “Dumb” computers connected to a mainframe, so email would be the only thing she could be doing and even that, certain Government agencies were not allowed to email externally so it all seemed quite odd that she would be able to do anything on that computer except for looking at active, very confidential files.
So not cool.
“Hi, what are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m working my mother’s accounts”, she replied.
A little panicked, I replied, “You couldn’t be doing that, the accounts are locked. What are you really doing?”
I walked over and sure enough she was working on her mothers accounts, adding notes and moving the date on them to lessen her mother’s workload.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea”, I said.
“It’s okay, my mother trained me and asked me to do this”, she calmly replied.
All the kids were them removed for their parents care and sent to a boardroom where they could do little damage, thus ending that years program and as a result of the effort and time it took to have the accounts cleaned by headquarters, the following year there was no program either.
The year after, however, there was a program and although I was asked to help out, it was very different and everyone tasked with helping me out were super-sensitive to what the kids would be asked to do, or not do, and right away the kids were tucked away in the director’s boardroom where they sat, worked and stayed for the entire day.
The funny, or ironic thing about what happened that day was the mother had properly trained her daughter to work those accounts and the daughter was doing as good a job as the mom could have ever done – better some would contend..
No one knew at the time what had happened that day and as word started to filter thorough the office, no one was surprised, but it made us realize that having the kids at work in certain environments meant more than just having the kids sit with their parents, it also meant keeping an eye on them and ensuring they had something meaningful to do that day that did not breach security or confidentiality of anyone at any time.
The program that continued to run on this day was a far different one that what the first one looked like and thank goodness for the kids. If they knew they could do as good a job as their parents after a couple of hours of explaining the process, then the secret would be out. At least this way they got to see and understand the severity of handling confidential information first hand.
So I hope offices were packed today with grade 9’s dressed up and ready to do what their parents, relatives, friends or volunteer hosts ask of them and I hope these grade 9’s realize the significance of this day, being able to observe first hand what they might be able to do for a living. Hopefully no one asked their child to perform an illegal task or put any company at risk.
Been there, seen that… Bought the t-shirt.
More information can be found at this link.