Sunday, November 17, 2013

Who needs a degree? You never meet a poor plumber

Comment from Britain

I got some stick on Twitter the other day when I said I couldn’t see the point of a degree in media studies.

Obviously, if you’re spending three years of your life examining the history of British soaps or highs and lows of radio comedy, it might come as a shock to be told that knowing all about Tony Hancock or the birth of breakfast telly doesn’t guarantee you a job.

The truth is, Labour’s big push to attract more youngsters than ever to sign up for a university education has resulted in too many worthless degree courses, dreamt up by academic establishments anxious to fill their coffers.

Since the recession, some have been cancelled, but it’s about time education experts spoke out about the current system which sees young men and women saddled with thousands of pounds’ worth of debt and no guarantee of a job that matches their aspirations or their area of study.

The sooner technical colleges take students from 14 and offer practical courses in areas where we are desperate for home-grown expertise, such as plumbing, building construction, electrical engineering and all aspects of the hospitality industry from catering to front of house staff, the better.

Far from thinking these are second-division jobs, these are the careers of the future. Show me a poor plumber — there certainly aren’t any in Central London.

Now, the heads of private and independent schools — the places where pupils would be channelled towards the best universities — are saying that employment, rather than further education, can be better for pupils.

The head of the Girls’ School Association is giving a speech this week claiming that there will be a shift ‘away from university as an automatic first choice’.

Hilary French thinks pupils should be looking at employer training and apprenticeships, instead of running up £27,000 worth of debt.

The Chairman of the Independent Schools Council, Barnaby Lenon, agrees — he says that of the 200,000 undergraduates studying communications, marketing, art and design and business, many would be more employable if they had opted for work-based training schemes.

At the moment, the Government has increased funding for apprenticeships, but there are still far too few — 75 per cent of the 520,000 places starting this year went to people aged 25 or older. There were only 61,000 new apprenticeships for young people, compared to 570,000 in Germany.

Education charity The Sutton Trust says we need to invest in 300,000 new apprenticeships for young people every single year.

We must prioritise investing in the young by giving employers who offer training tax breaks instead of handing out benefits when they can’t get a job because they are unqualified or have useless degrees.

Time to give honours to plumbers and builders — maybe that would reverse the snobbery about the value of a degree.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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