‘We don’t need no full-time education’

in BT.com

In the 1990s, the Labour Government vowed to get 50% of young people into further education.

This was, on one level, a laudable attempt to increase equality of opportunity and make sure the advantages of tertiary education were not just the preserve of the privileged few.

On another level, it helped the Government juke the unemployment figures by removing from the picture youngsters who might otherwise have been jobless.

Anyhow, even with the introduction of student tuition fees (and hats off to Nick Clegg for smoothing the way with that legendarily U-turn – see you at the polls, Cleggy!), there are still huge numbers of students entering university: 49.3% of English students, in academic year 2011-2012. That is, like, “totes” loads of students, yeah?

The problem, says the CBI, is that the students are doing degrees that are no use to employers. This is a familiar refrain from Britain’s leading top hat plutocrat pressure group.

“We need hungry and keen engineering graduates to make us rich by working in our medium-sized regional sprocket factories; instead we’re getting illiterate layabouts with a certificate in Jedward studies.”

But on this occasion, the CBI has quite rightly noted that the whole uni structure, rather than the just the choice of courses, is failing.

The idea that you leave school, are cocooned in a university for three years while you read The Greats and then leave to get a job really does belong to a bygone age.

In my industry, and I’m sure it’s the same in lots of others, we get a conveyor belt of youngsters fresh out of university.

Some of them are basically illiterate, bless them, and some are fine.

Some are talented, some are not. But almost none of them have much clue about how the world of work, well, works.

The dynamics, the relationships and the demands are nothing like college life, and that shock can be every bit as big of an early setback as struggling with the actual nuts and bolts of the work.

The CBI is right that we need more people doing technical and vocational tertiary studies, and we should absolutely be striving for a system where they do some studying part-time, and some actual real-world training and experience.
As it stands, people are studying for three years to then go and do something entirely different, and you’d have to grade that as a “fail”.

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