Thursday, 13 November 2008

A great place to work, especially in hard times

So why can’t they find a conductor?

It’s dark, it’s raining and it’s tea-time in England as I sit writing this item. In the background BBC Radio 4 news is droning away subliminally, mainly domestic news: shut-downs, job cuts, redundancies, closures, more rain forecast, gloom, gloom, gloom… Oh yes, and Germany has just admitted that it is in recession, and Japan’s next. Next year, it is projected, all the world’s major economies will be in recession. I think that I shall turn if off now, thanks.

Island in the sun

I had lunch today with Abbie Wolfe, conductor, who qualified at NICE this summer and has just come back to England for her summer holidays. She’s working in Mauritius, in the Southern Hemisphere, at the Ranger Foundation Trust’s still new centre there.

It does sound very pleasant. Never mind the climate, this is a new society, building up its human services from scratch. All a bit rough and ready perhaps but there is an established education service, free health entitlement and now the first stirrings of services for the disabled.

Virgin territory for Conductive Education and it sounds like she has a smashing job out there. She loves it. The centre is charitably maintained and moving towards official recognition as a school. That granted, a larger building will be prepared. She is the sole permanent conductor and, with non-conductor staff, she serves seven day children and three parent-and-child dyads. Children attend free of charge, already parents speak highly in the changes that they are experiencing, the President approves and as word spreads demand and numbers are sure to rise.

The centre has already advertised for a second conductor.

What is the real state of the world conductor market?

A week ago I published a rather glum item on the future of the conductor job market in the light of the economic crisis. Economic stress in Hungary, I argued, could unload an increased number of conductors on to the international market at a time when, around the world, charities, sponsors, public bodies and individual families alike are cutting and prioritising their budgets. The balance of supply and demand might tip, the conductive bubble burst and the cost (wages) of conductors fall consequentially.

Earlier this week I was in Hungary. Was it imagination, or was it the case that people I spoke to really are are preoccupied, distracted? And was it mere coincidence that the main preoccupation of the news media was the very public action of a far-right revanchist (and uniformed) political group, stirring up trouble internationally and driving ecomomics out of the headlines.

Meanwhile, the band plays on… Human services are not yet directly affected, so it’s all alright in Hungary then, isn’t it? Well, not quite: I heard of a large and already cash-strapped institution for 150 disabled adults that has just been told that its grant is being cut by twenty percent. What will happen to pensions and other social-welfare allowances has yet to be fought over...

The band is playing on in England too, and other countries where Conductive Education is expensively provided to meet elaborate national expectations and requirements. Yesterday I took a look at the CE Job Centre to see whether there is any hint of a down-turn of economic activity there.

No slackening of activity internationally apparent there and, on this index at least, the party looks far from over. Lots of advertisments, with more people looking for conductors than there are conductors advertising for jobs. Just perhaps the balance of economic forces behind the conductive bubble is such that the conductor job market will drift on through the world recession blissfully immune to the mayhem around it. Just perhaps…

No common pattern, and perhaps no commons sense

One thing, however, does seem certain that the very diverse world of Conductive Education will show no common, universal pattern in this respect. Some CE situations will unaccountably do well and others, equally unaccountably, will not. But what will be the cental tendency (that is what will happen to the market as a whole) and what will be the reasons that some places continue thrive while others go to the wall.

Abbie has a nice job in a safe and lovely island, no paradise but there are many, many places that are far less secure and lovely. Her job comes with a reasonable package. The Swiss charity, the Ranger Foundation Trust, that stands behind the centre in Mauritius advertised in September for the second conductor that it needs for its expanding service. Result: a couple of informal enquiries and no takers.

For years I have used the term ‘market’ to describe the trade in conductors’ service but, as often in Conductive Education, I really do wonder whether I am judging things too… well, too rationally. A ‘market’ implies conscious decisions on price and value, and an understanding of the realities of supply and demand. But who really knows what is going on, what are the motives and attitudes that drive the exchange of labour in this market. I certainly don’t.

Quite by coincidence, also yesterday, I go involved in a thread on the Conductive Community Forum, addressing the perennial question: 'What should a conductor earn?' This might peter out, as such things do, or it might go on to make the prices in the market place just a little more transparent. I had better stop here, as I already feel a gloomy premonition of what this could reveal...!

Meanwhile, away from al the gloom, if you’d like to know more about the vacancy in Mauritius, email Adel Sopronyi at or

Notes and references

The Ranger Foundation Trust

Presidential approval

Ranger Foundation Centre: September's job advert

Conductive Education Job Centre

Salaries for conductors. How much should a conductor earn?

1 comment:

  1. If I was 15 years younger I would be in Mauritius like a shot!

    I grew up recieving presents from relations living in this far away land of the Dodo and my cousin returned there last year to get married and sent me some beautiful photos.It seems like it would be a really exciting place to be working, especially when here in Germany Conductive Education is certainly not on the upward spiral as it appears to be out in the Indian Ocean.
    Susie Mallett