In this post I’m heading back to the topic of identity. Do toys determine the career paths we end up following? This is a hard one to gauge, if only for the reason that we’re talking about a pretty hefty time-scale to assess. I only have about 10 years on-and-off experience in toys (spanning about 15 years) so I can’t say my personal experiences will be worth much in this instance. Children who I sold toys to back in my Saturday job at school will probably at the most only be about 25 years old just now, and out of them there’s only a handful who I might recognise in the street. So for this post I’ll be leaning quite heavily on numbers and making something of a ‘case study’ out of them.
My ‘case study’ is farming. Some of the most popular toys sold in a rural toy shop focus around the world of agriculture: tractors, animals, fences etc. So how does this translate into real life jobs? You could be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t, as a BBC news story from May last year would appear to show. The BBC article focuses on interviews to drive home the fact that there are a lot of farmers out there who are beyond retirement age. They also cite some research done in 2004 on the average age of a farmer, which showed it to lie somewhere in the region of 50 years old, with many farmers either forgoing retirement for financial reasons or because they just couldn’t quit the lifestyle. This data seems to show that the children who go mad for tractors etc. at 7 don’t seem to be turning into farmers as adults. The BBC report would seem to show farming to be a job of the past, something that only older generations are hanging on to.
However, it’s a different story when we look at the intake numbers in agricultural schools which are apparently on the up. It would seem that the young adults who were buying tractors etc. from me back in the 90s are part of a generation which is steadily seeing agriculture as a more viable career option than say teaching or architecture. So why don’t they show up in the BBC article or in the 2004 study? Perhaps the reason they don’t show up as ‘farmers’ is that these people aren’t instantly becoming farm owners. And the reason for that may be the same as that faced by all of generation Y and beyond: boomers.
People born in the wake of WWII are reaching retirement age at the moment but many of them are choosing not to for one reason or another (often this is perhaps less of a ‘choice’ and more of a necessity because of the decreasing usefulness of pension payouts). As a result many people of my generation and younger are moving into ‘make-do’ jobs or at least getting themselves heavily trained up in anticipation of the job market opening up a bit.
Whatever the cause of the high average age of farmers it is clear that many young adults who were once children playing with farms are at least trying to make headway into the field (pardon the pun). It would be interesting to see how many of these young adults were avid collectors etc. I’d also love to hear from anyone who moved from some profession-linked toy to a matching profession, are you an architect who played with Lego or an engineer who played with Meccano?
Parents seem to place great weight on the toys they buy their kids, expecting massive changes in their future to occur as the result of the choices made in the toys they play with. I’m inclined to agree with this (to an extent) as I personally think toys are the first means by which we develop a world-view and if a tractor is central to that early world-view I’d expect some part of you to always hold farming close to your heart.
Personally I still dream of owning a small mixed use farm/smallholding (just a few acres) and I did love playing with my farm as a kid so for me at least I can see how my toys influenced part of my view of the world and how they contributed to my ongoing goals in life. Pop a wee message bellow and we can all compare toys and life goals, it should be an interesting discussion. Thanks again for reading and I always welcome any new subscribers, just click on the subscribe box to the right to keep up to date with posts about toys, life and people. Cheers, John