Making artificial cake decorations, working on the production line at a chocolate manufacturer, a probation officer and even selling pints of blackberries around the streets.
They were among the many and varied jobs Leanne Wood carried out long before becoming a full-time politician.
“I had a small amount of pocket money from my parents and my grandmother but always wanted my own independent source of income,” said Leanne.
“I worked right through school on the checkout of the old Gateway supermarket in Tonypandy every Saturday and on a Wednesday night. I also worked for a catering firm at Christmas time, serving meals to people in functions.”
Working life for Leanne had started early. “I remember delivering newspapers in my surrounding streets for £3.50 a week. That involved getting up early every morning from about the age of 12.”
And when Leanne’s father’s cricket team, Thomastown, Tonyrefail, needed help with making teas for players they called on her. “I recall watching the Live Aid concert on a black and white portable TV while making teas for my dad’s cricket team.”
Back in 1988 after completing her GCSEs, Leanne took a job at a factory in Porth. “They made artificial flowers and cake decorations and I remember earning £1.45 an hour. The pay packet at the end of the week was £52.35.
“Some of the conditions we had to endure there were awful. That summer it got pretty hot, there was a transparent, Perspex roof which made the factory heat up like a greenhouse.
“We were working with glue and the heat in the factory would raise the temperature of the glue and so many of us suffered from headaches. Every so often we had to evacuate the building because the temperature had got too high to meet European regulations.
“Even though when I took the job I had decided to leave school to have my own independence, by the end of the six weeks holiday, I was ready to go back. I decided I need to learn a bit more to get a job that paid more and ideally one where I did not have to endure those conditions. So I went back to school to do my A levels.”
During her later student years Leanne took a series of factory jobs.
She said: “I worked at the Bosch factory in Miskin and the Sunjuice factory and Ferrero Rocher in Llantrisant.
“At Ferrero Rocher in the early 1990s you were allowed to eat as many chocolates as you liked. It sounded like a dream job! I can’t look at them now though because I ate too many. I had so many on the first day that after day three I couldn’t stand them anymore.
“They made the chocolates in Italy and our job was to pack them into boxes. It was back-breaking work because you had to lean over the factory line and bring the chocolates into the box and we had to do that for eight hours a day. I did these jobs all throughout the summers so that I would clear the overdraft before starting back at the new term.
“In the Bosch factory I worked on the Rectifier Line. A rectifier is part of a car alternator. The work in Bosch was shifts, well paid for the area and the team on the line were really good people.
“I have come across a few of them while knocking doors in the Rhondda in recent months and we’ve had some good reminisces. I worked at Bosch two years on the trot, so I know many of them quite well.”
She added: “After university I spent a couple of months working for the Arts Factory in Ferndale as a youth worker before a job came up in the Mid Glamorgan Probation Service.
“I’d done an undergraduate course: a four year degree with an industrial placement year which I had spent in the probation office in Pontypridd. That gave me enough experience to apply for a job as an assistant in the probation office, which I did for a year before applying for a place on Cardiff University’s social worker diploma course.
“That was the qualification I needed to practice as a probation officer. I qualified as probation officer in 1997.
“My initial interest in the probation service was sparked by a friend of my father, who was a probation officer. I remember over many years him coming to our house and talking about his job and me being interested in it.
“My parents had fostered my cousin as a small boy as well and he had reason to be in touch with the various law enforcement agencies, so I had experience of people working in the related professions. I was interested in the kind of work they did.”
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