Too Clever By Half?

A graduate

Is this guy too scary?

I see the politicians are promoting the idea of more people going to university to make them employable. See the BBC article here.

I wonder if this is really the case? Labour are arguing for ‘Technical Degrees’ that are not academic but focus on skills. This is to raise the status of technicians I imagine. I have two reservations about this.

First, I have found examples of the difficulty of having a degree recognised as worthwhile. My daughter with her first class M.A. and M.Lit with distinction was advised by the ‘consultant’ at the Jobcentre to remove any mention of a degree from her CV if she wanted to get a job. I assumed this was an isolated thing ’till yesterday.

A friend has just completed a Ph.D in his spare time. He is currently employed by B.T. but is about to be made redundant as the work he does is being sent to India. He was told to revise his CV and did so. On submitting his updated document he was berated by a senior manager for including his university qualifications. He was told that anyone with a degree in their CV would not get an interview in BT. The manager would not give details of his own university education.

It would appear to me that the problem we have is not one of lack of education in the applicants but we have the wrong people in influential positions in our industry, especially big companies. Let’s remember that BT was originally Poast Office Telephones which had the monopoly of telecoms and is now a poor relation in that field. Is it any wonder?

There is a malaise here in government bodies and some employers. They make the excuse of lack of education and training as the cause of unemployment. I think they are looking in the wrong direction. I remember a meeting of physics department heads being addressed by a representative of industry complaining that young people were not being taught the right skills. We asked him what skills he would like to see taught. “Honesty and reliability” was his reply. Not exactly skills and not something we often find demonstrated by governments and employers either if recent revelations are to be believed.

My second reservation is the idea that there are no suitable technical qualifications for the non-academic. There have always been good college courses and national qualifications. The problem is that industry is not giving the recognition these courses deserve. Changing the name to a degree will make no difference. Blaming the youngsters, the schools, colleges and universities is dishonest and serves no purpose other than to pass the buck. Government and employers need to shake up their ideas and put the right people in place to get the economy moving, with more jobs.

Are you too clever or are you afraid some young gun with a degree will take your job?

Qualified or Unqualified – That is the Question


Nick Clegg has raised doubts about the government’s policy on free schools. He has suggested that teachers in these schools should be qualified. The government argues that this would cut out many talented, but unqualified, teachers. What are the merits of the argument?
Bringing in talented, inspiring people to schools sounds like a good idea. People have all sorts of experience and talents to bring as the Tories have long suggested. Remember the suggestion they made that failed bankers would make great teachers? I also recall the suggestion that troops being made redundant from the forces would bring discipline, loyalty and, perhaps skills in killing people.

I could teach economics?

Job for an ex banker?

But surely, if this is a valid argument, it should apply elsewhere too. People with flair and a desire to serve could be brought in to other professions. There are thousands of young men with vast experience of the court system who could be brought in as barristers. They have long experience of defending themselves in court with such brilliant defences such as “It was not me.”, “I was somewhere else at the time.” or “I found the goods lying in the street and I did not know they were stolen”.

Who needs qualified gas fitters?

Who needs qualified gas fitters?

We could go beyond that. The shortage of doctors, especially at weekends, could be solved by bringing in volunteers with some experience of first aid. Why should gas fitters need a special qualification? All you need is the ability to use a spanner and a blowlamp. Why should truck drivers need a special license? Lots of unemployed teenagers can drive cars without a license at all, let them have a go at a truck.
Can we see any good examples of unqualified people in a responsible job? How are they doing? Well we need look no further than the government itself. We have ministers of education with no education qualifications or experience and they are bringing lots of new ideas. Ministers, even prime ministers and Chancellors of the Exchequer have, and need, no qualification. Look at the great job they are doing.
Education statistics show that education standards in England and Wales have not fallen to the bottom of world rankings, not quite. Our economy is booming? – well, it will be soon, we are told, despite the deficit growing rather than falling.
So judge for yourself. Is Nick correct in demanding qualified staff or is the government showing us a vision of things to come?
I have one question, though. Why has it taken so long for Nick to notice this absurdity?