Last week I declared ‘mission accomplished’ on the first stage, in terms of social acceptance, of the battle to bring back to life an 800 year old institution, the British apprenticeship.
But despite figures that purport to show more people took up an apprenticeship last year than started a degree, I don’t think we are out of the woods when it comes to up-skilling the nation just yet.
We must now work harder to create more high quality, apprenticeships. And if more proof of this fact is required let me point to Germany, a country that not only understands to importance of the apprenticeship which is now actively poaching our young workers. This is despite 66 percent of German school leavers becoming apprentices and the country having youth unemployment of 7.5 percent.
It seems they are worried about their own impending skills shortage, and have a put aside 120 million quid to lure our best over there for all-expenses-paid three year apprenticeships, with good wages, German language lessons, and two free trips home a year.
You might say our European cousins want our young talent badly, and they are prepared to pay for it!
So, it’s quite literally becoming a case of use them or lose them. We really do need to realise what the Germans have already clocked and that is that the million young kids we have out of work are a potential asset not a liability.
The writing is on the wall for a skills based economic future in this country and if we’re not careful it will include umlauts, and it will read ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet!’
This can be a disaster or a wake-up call, it’s our choice. The most economically sound European economy has realised we have an asset they could use and have made a play for it.
They have retained more of a manufacturing base than we have over the last 50 years and they are determined to keep it.
We have convinced our young people and their families that taking up an apprenticeship is a great way to build a career now we must deliver on our promise and make them available in the numbers required; otherwise all the hard work raising the social status of vocational qualifications will benefit another country.
And in 50 years we won’t be importing Poles and Latvians to prop up what building and engineering we have left, it will be Germans called Smith, Jones and MacDermot!