I had a letter published in the Sunday Times last weekend, February 3 2013, but as usual it took a major cut. It was the third of three responding to an article by Johnny Steinberg. But notice how much space was accorded to the first rather philosophical piece, which does tend to repeat itself. My piece, on the other hand, really had the guts cut out of it. So, for the record, I pubish online my original letter below.
JOHNNY Steinberg says what we need to do to create jobs is triple the number of university graduates in the next 20 years (“Let’s build the ladders we are groping for”, January 27).
But he ignores what used to be called “the trades” – the technical skills which keep any modern country going.
The vast majority of those who actually matriculate are not “academic” and do not qualify for university.
But many could have trained to become electricians, plumbers, mechanics and so on.
What happened to the technical colleges of old, where pupils could start learning various trades from about the age of 16? And how many black kids are at our many agricultural colleges, learning how to farm scientifically?
As Associated Motor Holdings CEO Manny de Canha noted in an interview in Business Times a few weeks ago, rigid labour laws are preventing firms from taking on young people as apprentice mechanics – at a time when there is a growing shortage of people skilled in this key part of the economy.
I suggest if Steinberg is serious about helping to steer the government on a job-creation course, he target what is clearly, according to De Canha, a major impediment to the apprenticeship process.
Imagine, once qualified and able to service and repair today’s high-tech cars, how valued such skilled people become. And after gaining experience, a mechanic could go on to establishing his own business and employing new apprentices.
Thus are economies grown.