Choose your words carefully on apprenticeships, Mr Osborne!
Listening to the Budget speech today, I was struck by the following passage:
“In time, my Rt Hon Friend the Education Secretary’s school reforms will do more to improve the long-term economic performance of our country than any Budget measure every will. But we’ve got to help the young adults who’ve already been let down by the school system. We’re offering a record number of apprenticeships and our Youth Contract comes into force next month.”
As regular Touchstone readers will know, the TUC recently published a report called ‘German Lessons’. This sought to learn from Europe’s most successful economy, Germany. One thing that has struck us about Germany is the fact that vocational skills enjoy real parity of esteem with academic skills. Furthermore, a vocational career – taking up an apprenticeship with a world class company, such as Volkswagen or Siemens – is a highly prestigious achievement. Engineers in Germany are respected and valued.
In the UK, by contrast, a place in university is highly prized, while a vocational career is too often seen as “second best”. We need to move away from such snobbery and the TUC supports all genuine efforts to improve both the quality and the quantity of apprenticeships.
In the light of this, I hope George Osborne will choose his words more carefully in future. His comments about Michael Gove’s education reforms are obviously political and I won’t dwell on them here, but whilst no child should be let down by the school system, apprenticeships are not there for anyone that is. They are there for those young people whose talents are more practical than academic. Not for the failures, the failed or the “second best”.