Lost workforce

20th August 2004 at 01:00
It was after a recent visit to a local FE provider that I felt the need to make some sort of comment about the present crisis. As a representative of the local business community, I was there to discuss the problems that many businesses in this area are having recruiting suitably qualified students.

The courses available to them are demand led, but the ratio of graduates to businesses was very disappointing and I was left wondering where future recruitment would come from.

In today's egalitarian culture you can just about take any course you like whether it is suitable or not while higher education targets promote non-vocational education at the expense of vocational; a policy that goes back to the days when British Industry was in decline and well-meaning politicians created new institutions where you could spend three years doing pointless degrees and plan your future living off the state.

The statistics are not good for vocational education and this year alone there has been a 9 per cent drop in GNVQ and NVQ course intake. Has too much choice meant a gradual dilution of suitable candidates? Probably.

Take student X. His dad works as a plumber, as did his grandfather, but he has more choice. Maybe he will do plumbing; it is good money, but it is hard work, and hard work is no longer synonymous with making money. X wants to be on Big Brother and make a pound;100,000 sitting around on his backside talking crap. His is a media culture that sells unreality as reality. So he'll do ICT while he waits to hear from Channel 4.

Concentration is not his strong point. Nothing he watches or reads demands much concentration as nothing he watches or reads conveys more than the most basic information. In the end, he thinks maybe he should have done plumbing but rather than representing a realistic future that he might have approached with zeal in his early teens, plumbing now seems like an only chance. It is probably too late for X but not for the countless millions at key stage 2 who can be inculcated along a vocational path and be made to feel its worth. That is where your future workforce lies.

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