Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Gave two talks on skills/education at the Conservative Party Conference (not my natural habitat). Not surprised that all parties have finally dumped Blackpool as a venue - it's the armpit of Britain, all fast food, barn-sized drinking parlours and dilapidated B&Bs.

Two-brains Willetts

First talk was with David Willetts, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Universities and Skills, around Leitch. The bottom line is that business and education/training have been drifting apart for years. Business wants quick solutions that meet their needs and don't have much time for the vast array of qualifications and agencies in the market. They're desperate for a system that's quicker, simpler and with less entities. More is less. Education and training, on the other hand, is obsessed with qualifications and the creation of entities. They're like two sides shouting at each other with megaphones across a vast chasm.

Back to school with Michael Gove
I had a spat with Michael Gove mid-afternoon. His example of how children need more maths/science was, and I quote, "In order to understand how electrons orbit around the nucleus children need to understand the Copernican system of planets rotating around stars". I urged him to get another example, as "the quantum positioning of electrons has nothing to do with the Copernican gravitational model". He was none too pleased and did a lot of finger wagging. He's all discipline, standards and back to basics. By the way Michael check the spelling on your home page - it's awful

Final talk
The final session was excellent. There was a great talk on the 'myth' of science/engineering graduates. John Hayes, the Shadow Minister for Skills was sound on the need for a proper careers and advice service but it was John Morton, CEO of the ETB that astonished us with some raw stats. We produce 17000 engineers a year and the number has been stable for 15 years. 50% of these never go near engineering as the starting salary is pretty low (barely keeping up with inflation). The failure is in the FE sector, where we don't produce enough trained technicians. In the last 3 years these trainees have dropped by 26%. He saw the problems as lying elsewhere in our lack of innovation, entrepreneurship and our failure to celebrate success.

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