Skills Pays The Bills, Lord John Taylor of Warwick, Business, Education

Skills Pay the Bills

Skills Pays The Bills, Lord John Taylor of Warwick, Business

“Skills Pay The Bills,” written by Lord John Taylor of Warwick.

“Black people don’t become Barristers. Don’t you think you should set your sights a little lower?” That was the less than inspiring Careers Advice I was given at 16 years of age, when I told one of my teachers I wished to become a lawyer. Fortunately, I did not listen to him and achieved my goals. But decades later we are still failing young people in preparing them for the world of work.

On 10 AprilMatthew Hancock, the then Minister for Skills and Enterprise made an announcement in the House of Commons which was monumental and earth shattering, in the degree it was ignored by virtually all media outlets. But unlike many Government statements, this was a pivotal one. It was an admission that education and skills systems need reform, to better prepare our young people for jobs. As a former College lecturer and Chancellor of Bournemouth University, I am only too aware that far more needs to be done to bridge the existing gap between education and employers.


Over the past few decades, under Labour and Conservative administrations, the education pathways have become so complicated that even Sherlock Holmes would struggle to discover the clues to entangling them. For the first time in living memory, the Government set out a clear framework for the provision of guidance to be given by our educators. The guidance actually emphasised there should be a direct link between education and employment! It even went further, by stating that students need to be given direct experience of the world of work and a clear view of what the labour market needs.


I am the product of a Grammar School Education, which gave me a solid academic foundation. But at school and even at university, I had little understanding of what real life careers were like. It was only after some years as a lawyer that I decided to get some unpaid work experience at the BBC, just to feel for myself what daily life is like for a television journalist. It inspired me so much that within months I was presenting my own programmes for BBC television and radio. It was the practical experience that persuaded me to make the switch from law to journalism. The Government now seems to have grasped the importance of schools, colleges, and universities engaging with local employers and professional groups.


There has to be a planned programme of employer engagement which gives students an opportunity to hear directly from professionals and be inspired by role models. Linking with different sized companies or organisations will demonstrate the broad range of careers available. Inviting employer representatives to schools and colleges will help bring occupations to life. Inspirational speakers can give young people who may not have role models in their own families or networks, a chance to get more insight into different careers.  For example, STEMNET creates opportunities to inspire young people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) by linking people in STEM careers with teachers and lecturers. STEMNET’S network of STEM Ambassadors comprises over 27,000 volunteers. 40% of STEM Ambassadors are women, 13 % are ethnic minority and 60% are under 35 years of age.


It is never too young to start the process of linking education to jobs. I was born and raised in Paradise…. Birmingham in the West Midlands. Small Heath School has been a member of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce for 20 years and receives regular invitations to networking events, organised by the Chamber and other business organisations. Through these meetings the school was introduced to Russell Jones, Director of Marketing at Aston Villa Football Club. As a staunch supporter of Villa since I was a child, I perhaps am one of the few who recognises Aston Villa as truly the greatest team in the world. But setting aside my partisanship, the school was given the opportunity to help market Villa’s Junior Supporters scheme more effectively.  This was not just a school project but Analysis directly linked to the exciting business world of Premier Division Soccer.  This sort of link is also beneficial to the Business partners. Aston Villa believe that as a result of the students’ work, they saved in the region of £200,000 in consultancy fees. Maybe they can now put that money towards buying a player who can score some goals!


Apprenticeships have been a part of British working life since the Middle Ages. But with the decline in the manufacturing industry, Apprenticeship schemes have become less prominent in employment training. This has been most unfortunate, especially for those who are less suited for academic studies and prefer practical training. I tried to raise the profile of Apprenticeship schemes in a debate in the House of Lords on Skills and Training. I am pleased that the government now appears to be listening and Apprenticeships opportunities are now increasing. In 2012-13 a pilot apprenticeship scheme was launched in County Durham, a region that has particularly suffered following the closure of coal mines.  A successful example was Woodham College, which is linked to the local business park, comprising 250 businesses. Representatives from local companies delivered presentations about their apprenticeship programmes to the students. The Work skills Project specifically targets students in danger of leaving college without the skills the local employers are looking for.


The media got very excited recently when Michael Gove was replaced as Education Secretary by Nicky Morgan. Many words were spoken and written about their respective personalities. He was seen by some as too aggressive with teachers, especially when he called the teaching profession, the “Blob”. The fact that Nicky Morgan is a woman fueled the debate about the need for more female government ministers. But far more important than the gender and temperament of the minister, are the overall objectives of our Education policy. As a nation we are in commercial competition with other countries like never before in our history. In order to stay competitive, employers need people with the relevant training and qualifications. Skills pay the Bills.

To view, “Skills Pay the Bills” in Endeavour Magazine click here.