From the TUC

Choose your words carefully on apprenticeships, Mr Osborne!

21 Mar 2012, by in Economics, Uncategorized

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”.

3 Responses to Choose your words carefully on apprenticeships, Mr Osborne!

  1. Bill Kruse
    Mar 21st 2012, 4:29 pm

    The Tory idea of an apprenticeship though isn’t apprenticing to engineering or carpentry or anything similar. Instead it’s working at around £2.50ph behind a shop counter as a so-called ‘retail apprentice’. These ‘apprenticeships’ are just more slave labour a la Workfare. They’re just called apprenticeships to get round the minimum wage laws. Anyway, you can’t really expect someone who only holds the position he does in a party who mostly hold the positions they do purely because of privilege to realistically promote equality – he’d be putting himself out of s job if he succeeded! All these hugely bright kids stacking shelves aren’t ever going to be competition for little Osbornes and Camerons if they’re running themselves ragged just trying to make ends meet. That’s the real reasoning behind workfare and these ersatz ‘apprenticeships’.

  2. eJean1981
    Mar 21st 2012, 4:46 pm

    Way back when, apprentices may have been treated like indentured servants, but they actually learned the master’s business and skills. They could move up in the trade or occupation to journeyman status, and later become masters themselves. Do we think that’s still true today?

  3. Bill Kruse
    Mar 21st 2012, 7:25 pm

    In a proper apprenticeship yes, but many of the Coalition’s apprenticeships will be along the lines I describe where after years of essentially indentured service when you do move up the ladder instead of being able to support yourself and your family in reasonable comfort and security you’ll be on minimum wage in some satanic mill. It’s a forbidding prospect,if Osborne wants people to work he should offer them genuine inducement.