<I>MT</I> Masterclass: Skills

WHAT IS IT? The ability to do things well - speak languages, programme computers, serve customers, manufacture machine tools: this is what the skills agenda is all about. And although the best British firms have always understood that the skills of their staff are what they rely on to compete and win, a long tail of employers have never got it. They complain about 'skills shortages' but do little to train and develop staff. Schools and colleges do not produce enough 'job-ready' candidates. But now these skill-less wonders are threatened by the talented new workers of central and eastern Europe and Asia.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

WHERE DID IT COME FROM? Ars longa, vita brevis, as they used to say in Rome. For those who don't know your ars from your elbow, this Latin word is the classical equivalent of our word 'skill' ('Life is short, but skill/craftsmanship endures'). Humans have displayed skills since our prehistoric ancestors first picked up a flint. Opposable thumbs made everything possible. An essential characteristic of the human genius is the desire and ability to shape the world around us. Along the way, some modern Brits lost that.

WHERE IS IT GOING? Lord Leitch's review of the UK's position on skills, published in December, called (once more) for a radical reinvigoration of the drive to increase skills levels in this country. It was painful to hear the appeals repeated again - for greater employer involvement, for continued education, for a realisation that if skills levels are not increased, we are all in serious trouble. Gordon Brown sprang into action and appointed Sir Digby Jones as a new skills tsar, unleashed to roam the country and stir up enthusiasm and action. Will Sir Digby save us all from the conquering armies of Indian and Chinese graduates? We can hope.

Fad quotient (out of 10) Eight and soaring artfully higher.

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