Despite the UK being one of the richest countries in the world, we currently have one of the lowest skill levels in the G7.
Our skills gap is worse than countries like Italy, which is a worrying fact considering the rising danger of automation and the imminent extinction of low-skill or unskilled jobs due to it. Not to mention Brexit of course …
Yesterday evening, I attended a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference that looked into education and skills post-Brexit. It’s incredible when you take a look at the level of inequality in education and the level of skill gap we have in the UK currently. This is mostly due to schools not offering complete careers advice and opting only to mention university as a viable option. The result is that many young people, who could have benefited more from an apprenticeship, get themselves into further debt by paying for degrees that fail to train them in what they wish to pursue.
This seems, in part, due to how schools are ranked. Schools are ranked on a number of things, one of which being the number of students heading to university, which leads them to push that avenue. That said, it’s important to also remember the prestige factor that universities enjoy — as do many of us.
In fact, for many millennials, we are the first in our family to go to university; something that makes it a big and prestigious achievement. This also means however, that it’s much harder to say no and go for more practical alternative.
The panel argued that we need to understand that apprenticeships are not a second-best option to university, but an alternative that is as valuable in its own right. Justine Greening mentioned a skills revolution, but at the same time others in the government fundamentally argued against this, showing a clear divide.
Laura of Education Today stated an example of a high-class private school offering a £3.50 an hour apprenticeship for land management courses, which its own £30,000 a year fee-paying students would never do themselves. Examples like this don’t help in balancing the choices and removing the prestige factor.
Schools need to be truthful when it comes to education, and the government needs to begin tackling the real inequality which still very much exists in our education system. Education should be about informed choices; a right, not a luxury.
We, the next generation, are relying on our educational system to provide us with all the choices and options available to us. This is currently not happening unless we go to a top-end private school.