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The Effrontery Of Will Hutton



Will Hutton tells us from his perch in The Observer that yes, really, there should be lots more apprenticeships. Which is fine it’s logical, sensible, something we should be doing. It’s just that this is coming from Will Hutton:

Britain has been lauding Germany’s approach to education and training ever since a Royal Commission report in 1888. Illiteracy and innumeracy were far too widespread here, it mourned, and there was no German-style national framework to ensure high-level skills and apprenticeships in the industries of today and tomorrow. This endangered British industrial leadership too dependent on laissez-faire economics. There still isn’t that framework, laissez-faire still prevails – and industrial leadership has vanished.

Some 132 years later the secretary of state for education, Gavin Williamson, promised last week to unveil a new approach to post-school education this autumn. It will create, he said, a “world-class, German-style further education system”. The new mantra, he added, should not be “education, education, education” but “further education, further education, further education”.

He mocked the Blairite aim that half of young adults should go to university. What was needed instead was a new emphasis on the other 50%, made to feel that anything less than university was somehow failure. Other skills and aptitudes counted beyond those acquired at university and the economy, and millions of citizens, were suffering because of a collective snobbishness.

The reason why this is effrontery rather than just plain good sense is because it’s coming from Will Hutton. The Will Hutton who took over the Industrial Society – and organisation that actually trained people to do things – and turned it into a fashionable think tank immediately before it went bust.

That is, the man who destroyed, through hubris – perhaps incompetence – a significant piece of the industrial training system bemoans the lack of significant part of an industrial training system:

It was founded in 1918 as the Boys Welfare Association later becoming the Industrial Society. In 2002 it was renamed the Work Foundation, shifting its business model away from being a training organisation towards being a research, consultancy and policy think tank under the leadership of former Observer Editor Will Hutton. Its reports on various aspects of the labour market are often cited by the media. Ian Brinkley has replaced Stephen Bevan in the new position of director. In 2008 Stephen Bevan replaced Hutton as managing director, with Hutton becoming executive vice-chair. The Work Foundation was acquired in October 2010 by Lancaster University following a winding up petition in the High Court. Hutton was criticised for his handling of the Foundation by a number of publications including The Sunday Times and Private Eye.

That Sunday Times piece is here:

Will Hutton, the left-wing guru and government adviser on public sector pay, has been accused of contributing to the demise of one of the country’s most respected philanthropic organisations by selling its “family jewels”.

Hutton, who rebranded the former Industrial Society as the Work Foundation think tank, provoked fury among some employees when he sold its training arm to the private sector — where it now generates millions in revenue.

The organisation, which had suffered long-running financial problems, was declared insolvent earlier this month with a pension deficit of £27m. Although it has been bought by Lancaster University, about 600 members of the charity’s pension scheme are likely to see a fall in payouts.

Well done Will, vry, vry, well done.

As to what we should actually do that’s simple enough. We did have a system of apprenticeships, work training and all the rest. City and Guilds it was called. Usually a day, perhaps two half days, at a Technical College and the rest of the time on the job training by doing in one industry or another. This is what Wilt was teaching at Fenlands – now known as Anglia Ruskin University – College of Technology. Meat One was the butchers’ apprentices, Gas Two was the gasfitter apprentices.

ARU now, of course, having people like Richard Murphy as a visiting professor in Viv Nicholson economics rather than doing something useful like teaching words to the people who debone our cows. This is not an advance in our educational establishment.



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in British English
expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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