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Monday, January 28, 2008


McDonalds are going to be allowed to offer training courses which could form part of the standard A level. This is being encouraged by the government in order to bridge something called "the skills gap". We can predict objections from the NUT and others. Presumably somebody in Whitehall is looking at stats that suggest that huge numbers of UK teenagers are unemployable. I don't know quite why this should be except we seem to have slipped into a situation where all jobs demand the prestige, but not the actual training component, of some kind of higher education qualification. When, in the 60s, I stayed on to do A levels, one of my friends left at sixteen and walked into a job with the local estate agent. He did some form of day release but most of his time was spent at the counter answering queries from members of the public. I don't see the teenage estate agent today and the tradesman visiting my home no longer arrives with a 17 year old hammer-holder; a whole stratum of the economy that used to be occupied by "kids" is now occupied by people six years older who've done courses, courses which in many cases can't amount to much that they couldn't pick up in a couple of months on the job. The courses, which are aimed at the increasing number of kids who want to join the glamour professions, are growing in number just as the amount of places offering science or languages is declining dramatically.
I'm doing some work at the moment with somebody who did a degree in Music Management at the University of High Wycombe. A friend of ours is doing a Masters in Physiotherapy. I get called all the time to go and speak to people who are apparently doing a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Meanwhile I read that China already has 40,000 English speaking hackers picking up intelligence from Western web sites. In the light of all that the "skills gap" seems more like history working itself out than a problem in need of the smack of firm government.