The subject of skills ranked among the major themes at this year’s Conference in Manchester. Do we have the skills we need? How do we ensure that we have them? Whose responsibility is it to teach them?
Indeed, there were few policies more universally lauded than the Government’s bold apprenticeships programme, spearheaded by John Hayes. His refreshing approach has been to ensure that the vocational route is just as seductive, rewarding, and, consequently, well-trodden as the academic. It will put an end to the myth perpetuated by the last Government that universities hold the only key to a profitable and successful adulthood, and for that, the Minister must be congratulated.
A problem will remain, however, for as long as vocational training is regarded as something to be considered only if one does poorly at school. No matter how grand the ceremonies and glittering the prizes for new apprentices are made, the residual sense that they are somehow beneath their academic peers will linger for as long as apprenticeships are seen as something to be done in spite of, and not because of, school.