February 10, 2014

The Cult of University, Ctd

Benjamin Marlow (@benjaminmarlow) wrote in The Sunday Times here, 'University and debts of £50,000? No thanks, I’ll be an apprentice'. He shared the story of Rosie Messiha-Harlock:
"Like the rest of her school friends, the high-achieving 18-year-old had not considered anything after A-levels apart from going on to do a degree. Armed with two As and two Bs, Messiha-Harlock went to Kent University to study criminology and law. 
“In the sixth form, everyone is pushed to go to university, so I went along with it, but it wasn’t really for me. I felt as if I was treading water when what I really wanted to do was get on with my career.”

Benjamin explained how the apprenticeship system works:
"Candidates usually have a job guaranteed and earn a good salary, thus avoiding the millstone of debt that their university peers will be saddled with."
He then quote Matthew Hancock, the skills minister, who said:
"There is a cultural change taking place. University is obviously right for some people, but not others, and the worlds of employment and education have been segregated for too long. This is the best way of bringing them together."
I cited Matthew Hancock in an earlier post here:
"Concentrating only on academic training to the exclusion of technical training was a big mistake."
Benjamin then gave some figures on university graduates:

  1. In 2012, nearly one in ten students were unemployed six months after graduating, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
  2. Recent research from the Office for National Statistics found that nearly 50% all graduates were working in jobs that did not require a degree.
  3. Nearly 5% were working in “elementary” jobs as office juniors, hospital porters, waiters, shelf-stackers and the like.

He then explained the apprenticement agenda further:
 "Three years ago the government created a national framework targeted at the cream of the A-level crop and designed to be seen as a direct alternative to university. Launched in July 2011, the £25m Higher Apprenticeships Fund was established to encourage businesses to provide programmes for school-leavers. Employers that signed up could tap the government for funding to help meet the cost of several years’ training."
Benjamin explored the skills gap:
"It was launched in response to grave concerns about a chronic skills shortage holding back the economic recovery, and targeted at engineering, law and accountancy where the skills shortage was greatest."
Benjamin explained that employers have struggled to find workers with the necessary skills:
"Business lobby groups have warned that a lack of skills is shackling firms and crippling expansion plans."
He cited Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills at the CBI:
"The return to growth and the fall in unemployment have a flip side and that is a skills shortage. The best way to solve that is to train people into the jobs."
David Stokes, chief executive of IBM’s UK and Ireland operations, spoke to the same effect:
"One huge disadvantage with university graduates is the lack of work experience. Higher Apprenticeships bridge the gap between the two." 
More on apprenticeships:
"Some courses, such as those at the management consultancy Capgemini, and the accountancy firm Deloitte, are a hybrid where the candidate spends the initial years gaining work experience and then studies for a degree part-time or through distance learning." 
The key bit, and a comment I can stand by:
"Those who took a leap into the unknown by shunning the university degree that teachers and parents expected them to take and headed straight into work, say they have no regrets."
Benjamin quoted another non-university young person, Messiha-Harlock, who said:
"My friends are worried about their job prospects. I don’t have a degree, but so what. I found my career and I’m studying and learning and getting paid to do it. It feels like a win-win to me."
He then quoted Hannah Anderson, a 20- year-old on the second year of Deloitte’s school-leaver programme, who said:
"I could have gone to university and understood a lot about accounting, but I wouldn’t have had the crucial work experience and employability factor. I think I am realising my potential earlier than my peers."
He concluded:
"More needs to be done to encourage teachers and parents to make young people aware of the alternatives to university."
Benjamin Marlow in The Sunday Times in full here. As I noted previously here:
"Attending 8 hours of lectures per week in an arts/humanities/social 'science' course is a waste of £27,000 except for the academically gifted."
Previous posts on the cult of university here, here, here and here. Also with The Sunday Times, apprenticeships and comments from young people here. And here on the effect of bringing university to the masses. Barack Obama on college here. In the Huffington Post here.


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