Having served twelve years on an Education Committee and been at more parent councils/boards than I’ve had hot school dinners I know how parents value excellent schools and opportunities they give their children. Laudable stuff, especially when they are themselves engaged. But, despite being the first (and only) member of my family to take a degree, I believe education is off-balance here in Scotland. An over-emphasis on academic tertiary conceals a serious neglect of vocational education. This must stop.
Over the next seven years, employment in Scotland’s creative and cultural industries is predicted to expand by 40%, generating 18,000 new jobs. Employment in those industries responsible for management and development of the built environment – encompassing property, planning, housing, facilities management, cleaning and support services and parking industries – looks set to grow by 30%, creating around 27,000 new jobs. Even the battered Scottish construction industry is predicted to recover to 2007 employment levels by 2014. You don’t need a degree for any of that.
But you do need an apprenticeship. Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) offer people aged over 16 the chance of paid employment combined with the opportunity to train for jobs at different levels. They are an exciting way of gaining skills and nationally recognised qualifications that help kick-start a career without having to study full-time. MAs are available across a wide range of sectors and instill in trainees a range of ‘soft skills’ around communication, teamwork and problem solving, as well as improved numerical and IT skills. In short, your education is geared to prepare you for your job, which is why the Scottish Government is keen to offer 25,000 MA places.
Even though plumbers are now virtually royalty, Scots have yet to shake a Victorian class prejudice that manual work is dirty, underpaid and undesirable. But when you consider Germany’s massive vocational education programme (and the world-class quality engineering it produces) then douce bigotries of Milngavie matrons are seen through and we can encourage hands-on youngsters with deft fingers to help us build our 21st century future.