Labour's fantasy reforms
In the wake of another record year of A level results, university departments are developing inventive new ways of disguising the first two years of a degree course as anything other than a secondary school remedial course. A good friend of mine now reckons this is how long it takes to bring students up to the old A level standards. Then just as they get started on some real undergraduate work, it's time for finals and graduation.
Employers know this, of course. So 21 year-olds are now filling the jobs that were once filled by 18 year-olds, but with tens of thousands of pounds of debt to contend with. Employers also know that Eton produces more pupils with five good GCSEs than the whole of the London Borough of Hackney in any year. And that 40% of children leave primary school illiterate and innumerate.
So how are employers coping? Well, I think they're re-discovering Fordism. Ford realised you didn't need teams of skilled engineers to build a car; if the process was broken down into discrete parts, any numpty could be quickly taught to tighten a particular nut to a given torque. And that's what production workers did; they tightened the same nut over and over. They became expert at tightening that particular nut. But that was all they could do.
IT systems have allowed the new Fordism to emerge to cope with our disastrous wreck of an education system. "Computer Says No" is the reality for millions of workers in Britain today. Including all those graduates. Brave visions of the knowledge economy, of hordes of uber-bright young British things with 2:1s all innovating like mad are just visions; like Blair's other fantasies and self-delusions, the deceits of each new five-year plan and set of Stakhanovite performance indicators. But employers have to keep the economy going, and will adapt to make use of the quality of raw material available - they have no room for Labour's fantasy visions.