It confirmed what I'd long known - that I'd learned my engineering from the finest teachers in the world, the mechanical and electrical engineers who had been nurtured themselves by the National Coal Board from apprentices to graduates and post-graduates to Chartered Engineers. They had spent their time underground amidst the heat and piss and muck as well as their time in the lecture rooms. Neither did we soft would-be young quarry engineers pose them any challenge. "My name is Gerald Alass" announced one mech. eng. lecturer on his first day "Some call me all-arse. I don't mind that. It takes a big 'ammer to drive a big nail." I pray today please, please, let these people still exist - we need them now more than ever.
William Hague in the Telegraph - whom I think it's now safe to read again,if he's been purged of his Remainerism by Boris' victory, writes today
Alongside investing capital in infrastructure, we need the growth of human capital. Your problem, if you’re sitting in Rotherham, is not just that you can’t travel quickly to an international business based in Manchester. It is also that you probably don’t have the right expertise when you get there.
Universities have done much to bring more dynamism to many northern cities, but we all know by now that we are not short of graduates. British industry complains continually of shortages of technical and digital skills. And if we are going to build so much infrastructure, tens of thousand of additional people with construction skills will be needed. A decisive change in our woeful record of promoting vocational skills, both for young people and adults who need retraining, is the vital ingredient for rescuing millions of people from being left behind by technological change.A voice on the radio yesterday whose name I can't recall suggested we need also a prestigious and world-class institution of our own of the sort that TU-Wien aspires to be - an MIT, a Manchester Institute of Technology. I fully support that. We already have either 4 or 5 universities in the global top 20 - whilst the entire EU27 has exactly none. While the US has both the original MIT and CalTech in the global top 10, our contenders are Oxford and Cambridge - institutions that may produce competent civil servants, but won't win the UK the international tech race.
This is where ministers need to be more ambitious than their manifesto. Many laudable commitments were in there – 20 institutes of technology, a new National Skills Fund, and a requirement to use UK apprentices on infrastructure projects. But in the forthcoming reorganisation of government departments, and any reshuffle of ministers, this ought to be a prime focus. The country needs a revolution in the esteem accorded to technical studies, the ease with which anyone can move between skills training and higher education, and the ability of current workers to use the same system.
And at the risk of sounding Northist, this human capital formation will best take place north of a line drawn from Bristol to the Wash. Sorry, but it just will.