Valuable lessons from holiday jobs

SINGAPORE - I was dismayed to read student Chow Kit Ying's letter ("Holiday time can be put to better use"; Wednesday), which appeared to demean the value of students taking up "low-skilled" part-time jobs during their school holidays.

The purpose of work is not to boost our self-esteem. Indeed, stacking store shelves, sweeping floors, washing dishes and cleaning cinema theatres during my teenage years taught me several important lessons that unpaid community service cannot teach.

First, one quickly learns that many people support themselves and their families by working in jobs they find "unfulfilling", as society needs more of such workers than it does highly paid professionals.

Second, even after earning a degree, students may one day be forced to take on unfulfilling jobs to support their families.

Understanding and experiencing this when they are young can be a good thing.

Third, such work will give students a better appreciation of what maids and cleaners do every day.

Fourth, if young Singaporeans are willing to do such humble jobs, it will not be necessary to import so many foreign workers. You can see this in the United States, where students take on the retail and restaurant jobs that are done by foreigners in Singapore.

Students who have never had any work experience may face problems when they enter their first adult jobs, and the answers cannot be found in their school textbooks.

Eric J. Brooks

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