Smithers, director of the centre for education and employment research at Brunel University, is a trenchant critic of the vocational reforms of the past 10 years. So, Tuck quipped as he rose to his feet, his task was "to see ourselves as Smithers sees us".
The most messianic performance of the day belonged to George Bennett, corporate vice-president of Motorola, who enthused eloquently about chips, wafers, sensors and drams. He may have been born in Gorebridge but he obviously knows Glasgow eateries.
"We are surrounded," the semiconductor supremo said, "by the ubiquitous chip." Or was that a reference to something else?