So here it is, the result of education, education, education – a system that leaves students wishing to take up science subjects at university now needing an extra year’s education for, among other things, “remedial maths”.
And get this – a new scheme to give those not going to university £7,000 to spend on education to prove that there are other ways of becoming educated than that.
Excuse me for being a tad cynical, but do we really believe that this is all going to go on education? I am sure that some of it will be used well and that we will hear some good case studies, but something tells me that this is just one more way of preventing rather than providing education. In the good old days, we had polytechnics and such. All this time we spend wondering how we can get more people into the sciences only to find it less attractive because, in order to make the grade, another year is needed.
If that isn’t enough, in a world where no one can excel, we have to reduce the standard so that more can pass. The reality is that some people have greater academic capability than others and those with less possess other skills.
Don’t get me wrong, there is some great potential in the new, old system, particularly if we can let youngsters know that engineering, technology, engineers, mechanics, fitters and the like are worthy, respectable and lucrative occupations.
We all know how hard it is to get a plumber or electrician for our homes – and how much more difficult for business. Frankly, when talking about corporate sustainability, the talent issues should be high on the list of potential threats.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has put some effort into the energy sector recently. Not so much, it would seem to me, because it is the right thing to do, but because he is under pressure. So he met the movers and shakers for lunch. I wonder if the conversation that ensued touched on what the sector’s great and good thought of or needed from the current education system.
I just love those speeches about energy security and supply. Maybe Brown has missed something here, but when cleverly suggesting that there is more to get out of the North Sea, he seems to have completely overlooked the fact that these projects take a long time and a lot of investment and skills.
According to my solar calculator (yes, I’m doing my bit) we are pretty much out of time, we have frightened most of the investors away and, in 10 years’ time, who on Earth is going to be exploring, producing and operating?
My cynical mind suggests that the folks who are trying to work this out figured things out better than I at first thought. It goes like this. If we create a system that cannot produce technical and scientific experts, we don’t need to be worrying about operating the North Sea. We will, however, need all the media and arts folk we can get so as to fill our minds with yet more fatuous rubbish than we’re already pumped full of in order to anaesthetise ourselves against real reality.
Looking at the figures, the next generation of leaders is not only smaller, but less well educated and disinclined to join an industry such as upstream petroleum that has earned a reputation of being not only big and dirty, but unkind to the environment and its employees.
Don’t worry, though. The UK isn’t the only place with skills shortages. In Germany, it was reported, the industrial giants, Siemens, BMW and such, have taken their corporate game into primary schools – to show off their wares and encourage youngsters to think about careers in real industry.
Granted, we have companies in the UK who go to schools, but from what I understand, German industry is really making a big thing about it and even co-operating with one another.
Seriously, the energy industry needs to get its act together and co-operate more when seeking to solve the serious issues of poor reputation and attractiveness. Otherwise, we won’t just have a skills gap, or a generation gap, we will be facing a total void of home grown talent.
You don’t believe me? Next month, I will collect some facts and stats that just might wake you up. Fear is a great motivator.
Jon Glesinger is CEO of Expert Alumni