22 May 2012
Sign up to our Starved of Skills campaign
WM editor Max Gosney on our blindspot to bringing bright kids into manufacturing and why signing WM's Starved of Skills campaign can help us solve the problem
Over 10 million viewers regularly tune in to TV show Britain's Got Talent. But for a nation so obsessed with finding hidden potential we're shockingly ignorant to some of our own.
Picture the following, entirely fictional, scene playing out on the nation's top-rated programme. Ant and Dec coax a nervous looking youngster on to the stage. Our plucky contender has no mind-boggling dance routine or chirpy canine sidekick – instead they start their audition by reciting Newton's third law. There's an gasp from the audience, followed by heckling as our youth moves on to Brownian motion. Full-scale derision erupts moments later as a CNC milling machine is wheeled out to join our contender on stage. The routine is stopped short by a truculent Simon Cowell.
Our crestfallen youth tries in vain to explain the importance of manufacturing skills.
Cowell strikes back: "Listen, this show is called Britain's Got Talent. The clue's in the name: Britain. It's not China or Bangladesh where they actually make things."
A flight of fancy perhaps, but the point is serious. Nine in 10 factories are actively recruiting, according to WM research this month (see page 7) yet most can't find operators or engineers. At the same time, the queue of dispirited youngsters at the jobcentre lengthens. It has to be a national priority to sort this debacle out.
Insisting on a curriculum of impartiality and equality is doing many young Britons a disservice. Lack of direction, sloppy standards, abundance of choice and absence of competition has helped catapult kids towards unemployment. And these kids are bright. Don't buy into the myth that today's generation is somehow inferior to the baby boomers who did metalwork for breakfast.
Nonsense – any deficiencies reflect our own shortcomings as mentors.
We can help by forcing our skills crisis up the political agenda. Politicians just don't understand our predicament. You can change all that by backing WM's Starved of Skills campaign, urging parliamentary action.
Sign up at www.petition.co.uk/starved-of-skills.
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