"Apprentices should be valued much more highly" - Penny
Penny, 61, is a retired teacher who now works part-time as a teaching assistant. She and her husband live in Watford and have two grown-up children who have both taken very different career paths.
Her daughter, now 28, went to university and then teacher training college before becoming a teacher.
Her son, now 32, left college with a HND Diploma in Graphic Design but struggled to find work in the industry. After a series of casual jobs and periods of unemployment he retrained as a tree surgeon at the age of 25. He’s been doing this for seven years and now has an apprentice of his own.
Penny says: “The expectation is that youngsters will go to university – they aren’t counselled enough about other options. There are too many schools out there who want their figures to look good. They’re persuading children to go to university but it’s not the answer for everyone. Youngsters shouldn’t think they have failed for going straight into an apprenticeship.”
Penny herself went to teacher training college and says things were very different then: “I had my fees and accommodation paid for. My parents gave me living expenses and I worked through the holidays. It’s very different – and tough – for youngsters now.”
Sandwiched between generations
Penny also supports her 91-year-old mother, who is in nursing care, and manages her finances for her.
Penny says: “I have had one or both parents in care for more than 17 years and became primary carer to both over eight years ago until my father passed away. Both children have now left home but still need some support from us. I often feel sandwiched between the two generations.”
She and her husband have always tried to teach their children the value of money, from giving them pocket money and encouraging them to get Saturday jobs, to helping them plan their finances when applying for mortgages.
Cut according to your cloth
“We’ve taught both our children the value of saving. Everyone always wants to have more but you have to cut according to your cloth! I do have a credit card but I hardly use it – only for online purchases. When my housekeeping money’s run out I don’t spend any more.”
Penny cooks most of her meals from scratch and loves baking. Her son is also a keen cook, although he will still ring mum for advice from time to time!
“My son rang me the other day and said “I’m in the middle of Asda, what ingredients do I need for a banoffee pie?” He wanted to impress his girlfriend’s parents!"