Can't write, can't count May04
About 20% of our adult population cannot write or count. About
33,000 children leave school every year at age 16 without a single GCSE.
Over 33% of the working population neither have a university degree nor a
Level 2 qualification (5 or more GCSEs at A-C grade or a NVQ Level 2).
Whilst 82% of German and 71% French workers have the equivalent of Level 2
qualification, the UK can only claim a mere 53%. Only 38% of UK workers
have a Level 3 qualification (2 or more GCE A Levels or NVQ Level 3)
compared to 73% in Germany.
On winning the General Election in 1999, Tony Blair declared his
priority for Britain: “education, education, education”. He has failed
to upgrade the standards of our primary and secondary schools, undermined
the Conservative-initiated programme of a comprehensive, well-funded
Master Apprenticeship scheme and failed to promote a pool of skilled
workers who can serve our industry and businesses. Mr. Blair’s belief
that 50% of our school leavers must go to universities, irrespective of
what they study, undermines the importance of a parallel technical
educational programme that can offer the skills needed to strengthen our
A Report by the Institute of Directors (IoD) titled “Education
and Training: Blueprint for Reform” outlines a new architecture for UK
universities such that there would be classified into three categories:-
Research and Training e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College
A survey of 500
IoD members conducted by NOP revealed that 37% of businesses experienced
skill shortages in recruiting in the last six months. Occupations that
were particularly hard to fill included associate professional or
technical positions, sales, marketing and middle management. Over 25% of
these IoD members also referred to skill shortages in IT, software and
engineering. Many firms suffer skill gaps where the workforce is unable to
meet the objectives of the business.
What must we do to tackle this problem?
UK businesses need computer programmers, plumbers, electricians,
heating engineers, air-conditioning engineers, carpenters, metal workers,
graphic designers, vehicle mechanics, marine engineers and masons who are
competent and resident up and down the country, not just in the big
cities. The Construction Industry Training Board estimates that some
380,000 people will be needed for recruitment by December 2006 to meet
current growth targets and replace those leaving the sector. This does not
take account of Mr. Prescott’s plan to build a million homes in the
South East, including the corridor between Cambridge and the M25.
Skill shortages and skill gaps on this scale inhibit productivity
growth, discourage innovation and decimate profitability. We should not
discourage our young people from acquiring technical skills and then
depend on immigrant labour to fill the gap. This results in rising
unemployment for our citizens, social dependency and communal tension.
Whilst the UK does need immigrant skills, there is a social cost for
housing, schools and health for a large inflow of immigrants every year
that has to be financed from taxation, including taxes on business. UK
businesses cannot afford to lose their competitive edge in the EU and on
the global market.