The problem I have with this story in the Independent is that what they intend to achieve is right, but they are doing it for all the wrong reasons
“Students should turn to apprenticeships to ease soaring demand for degrees, Ucas boss warns”
The presentation of encouraging school leavers to go for “apprenticeships” is that its directed “to bring down soaring demand for higher education places”. On present trend England is heading toward one MILLION applicants for universities every year.
Instead of asking how we “damp down” this demand, perhaps we should be asking whether what the country needs these sorts of numbers of school leavers going through university (and I would argue exactly the same thing is true of Scotland).
I support the four-year Scottish Honours course, but the same trend here will lead to pressure for this to become a three years Honours course, just like England. Not because the English system is better (it’s not), but for the worst of all reasons – cost.
But more critically, have we got the balance right? Is it right, for instance, that any child leaving school who doesn’t get to university is in any sense “a failure”? More practically, is it not the case that there is a growing need for technician trained young people. Have you tried to find a plumber or an electrician to work for you? Can we not celebrate that a child can find something, somewhere to do where his/her skills will be employed and they will feel fulfilled (and not just “blood knackered” as one respondent in a “job enrichment” project told Theo Nichols) even if it’s not at university.
Do we not need to take a wider view of ability? That it’s not all about – God help us – regurgitating the stuff they have heard in the last 12 months in response to some question that they will never consider again in their lives? That we need to offer more respect to manual skills – speaking as someone who is a danger to life armed with a power drill. A builder of my acquaintance always says when a client tells him that what he is doing is great and he couldn’t do it, that “But I couldn’t do your job”. And neither he could. Society needs a wide range of skills, but we offer more prestige for some jobs more than others, and in particular we chose to reward some more than others. Perhaps we need to take a more functional view – that everyone doing a job is necessary for society to function. I would have thought that if there is a single positive from the pandemic that recognising this would be one of them, but it seems not. Perhaps when you can’t get your bins emptied and your kids are at home all day (again) might give us the assistance we need to realise and respect this.
Of course, given its class-ridden nature, the UK is probably not the place you would choose to do this. One more reason to get out.