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The state of training

I'd rather back real estate in central Detroit than buy the student loans book" - an opinion expressed in a response to the skills white paper.

The issue is that we want a high-value economy in the UK as we can't compete on cheap goods. High value requires a highly trained workforce and someone has to pay for that training. Until recently this has been the state but now the individual is contributing more. However whilst the individual cost of a degree has increased significantly, its value has dropped, partly because we don't have the high value economy to support such a highly trained workforce and partly because most of our graduates only speak English which is a serious handicap in this mobile world.

In fact, it's more serious than that. Not only does it mean that we have our own unemployed graduates but that companies need not train but instead can recruit abroad for even better trained graduates who work in lower paid economies (as most are). And because companies recruit abroad, or have moved their operations abroad, there's also little appetite from them for training and it's dropping all the time. We also have very low rates of apprenticeship as compared to Germany for example.

The Government's response is to create a market for training in which well-informed individuals can pick and pay for the training that suits them best on their chosen career path. All this requires is good LMI (Labour Market Information), good Careers Advice and training strongly linked to what business requires, pricing should find its own level as the market dictates. Oh, and money. Will banks underwrite training grants (unsecured), will business provide instead (apparently the only time it did was when faced with massive civil unrest in the 80s leading to YTS)? It doesn't seem likely at the moment.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 18th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
Elitist that I am, I have always thought that research university-based education should only be available to a few; most people need either teaching-based qualifications or MUCH shorter vocational courses. What matters is equality of opportunity to get there (and ability to pay is one of the WORST factors). Social engineering to try and say "everyone can go to university" was entirely wrong. The correct statement is around "tertiary education", not "university".

Trying to make them all the same was always going to fail, and may end up worst than where they started. For many careers, except as a gate, university was already of limited personal economic increase in value, and that gate was only justifiable in many cases, by turning entry routes into universities....

If you earn extra because of your education, a progressive tax system ensures you pay more. What Government funded education should do is deliver the highest economic increase in value for that investment. If it is overall beneficial, then they should continure to pay for it.

Finally, where do "zero teaching grants" follow from a manifesto 25% (or even 40%) cut?

Edited at 2010-11-18 06:26 pm (UTC)
Nov. 21st, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)
Many bright working class young people don't get the A level grades necessary to get into Russell Group universities, because many state schools don't deliver. Education is divided by class and location pretty much from age 4. An academic at Cambridge told me they were happy to take working class students providing they achieved 3 As, but didn't realise how much of a disadvantage these kids are at.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 01:16 pm (UTC)
I completely agree with you; but I view this as mostly a failure of secondary education, and trying to sort it on universities as political misdirection.

One of the more cynical things about the previous government's policy was that they expected universities to lower the "initial knowledge requirement" to bring in such people, which results in extra costs, particularly for "hard science" courses, without really allowing for it in extra spending - you lost if you DID'T do it. You can allow for (eg) foundation years, but who pays for them - especially with an increasing amount of the cost transferred to those students, and those who most need them are least likely to want or be able to pay for them.

On a personal basis, I was incredibly lucky - I ended up at a grammer school (which had a wider range of abilities than most due to also having placed boarders), then made a Russell university (on a full grant, counting as a low income single parent family) on the basis of my A levels - . My background is decidely middle class.

And I still wonder how different I would have been if I had been "pushed" academically.... I suspect I would have learned very different behaviour patterns.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 02:41 pm (UTC)
I agree with this comment entirely, and I'm not an elitist at all: it just seems practical. We need about X% of people to get one sort of tertiary education, y% to get another sort, and so on: the perception that the more academic kinds are 'better' is part of the problem I think, meaning that govts were stupidly drawn to widen that sector to try and make people happier.

In say Germany, kids who go to technical training colleges rather than research-led universities don't consider themselves (and aren't considered by others) to be thicko failures; rather that they happen to have an aptitude for one kind of thing rather than the other. Whereas here, at least at my old school, that was definitely seen as the inferior option for those who couldn't manage a decent university place.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC)
In the UK, Streaming or competitive exams were (and continue to be) seen as Success/fail rather than "appropriate assessment"

In the town where I was at a grammer school, it was not a good idea to walk past the "secondary modern" alone and in school uniform, as nasty things might happen to you...

"Comprehensives" were at least partially a fudge so that effective streaming could be hidden within one school - or in reverse, a claim made that a range of abilities could be taught.

The real answer is "more teachers to develop potential"; it shouldn't be seen as a bad thing that if you help your child to do well, they do better. Moving into distinctly dodgy areas of discussion, it is largely ignored by many of those who pontificate about such things that the children of many 1st-gen Indian parents who were distinctly "working class" managed to get their children into universities as doctors and lawyers, etc, far more than other immigrants. This effect now seems to have transferred to white kids.

As far as I can see, it really all comes back to parental aspiration and pressure, to best make use of potential and available resources. And, unfortunately they are too limited, and becoming more so.

Edited at 2010-11-22 03:07 pm (UTC)
Nov. 22nd, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
Mm, in practice the more the state withdraws, and the more limited resources are (so raising hurdles), the more parental aspiration and pressure dominate -- which is a pity I think. Apart from the personal cost of people being made unhappy by their parents' aspirations (or lack thereof) for them, there's the practical cost to society of inefficient allocation of students/trainees, if one can think of it that way. I am quite socialist about this sort of thing: I think children's education and careers should "belong to" them and to society at large, rather than to their parents.
Nov. 18th, 2010 06:36 pm (UTC)

Why not have the gov't guarantee the loans, and collect the defaults through taxes?
Nov. 18th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
Taxes on the defaulters, that is.
Nov. 21st, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
YTS = Youth Training Schemes. Non-training for non-jobs to keep the youf off the streets in the 1980s. Student loans in England are made by the government, through an agency called Student Finance England (never!) and are collected through Income Tax once an individual has graduated and is earning £15k pa.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 02:06 am (UTC)
English is a benefit not a handicap, apart from that I agree with you entirely.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )