I’ve got a first in art history – but I can’t get a job. Sob.

Danny Williams
Danny Williams

By Danny Williams, managing director, Pioneer Trading.

My loyal reader, if he/she/gender non-binary has a long enough memory (or if they care), may recall me spouting on many years ago that college education is regarded as second class.

And despite many efforts to revive and refresh ‘apprenticeships,’ and reinvigorate training for meaningful, tangible trade skills, little has changed.

Other than our skills shortage is now an epidemic.

University education has for many years been a right, whereas when I was a lad, very few of the oiks that I (occasionally) attended school with went off to some posh university, most never to be seen again.

And whilst it wasn’t quite comedian Mickey Flanagan’s observation that ambition amongst his pals was getting a job as a van driver, we went out into the world, knowing that all you had to do, was do something meaningful with your hands…‘Get yourself a trade, son’ was the primary career guidance of the time.

I trained as a diesel fitter and still pride myself on being able to get the gearbox out of one of our seven tonners on a Friday afternoon and have it fixed and back ready for the next load by Monday morning.

Whether that is the best use of my time as a Captain of Industry may be questionable but if I had not struck out as a double-glazing salesman in the ‘Eighties because I needed to make more cash, I would still be fixing diesel engines for a living. I got myself a trade, son.

The lack of even half decent, skilled people under the age of 40, is hindering not just the growth and development of UK PLC, but the very survival of many – most? – organisations.

I was recently heard about an installer that said, once his one good fitter retires, he will simply shut up shop because he simply cannot find anyone to replace him.

A near neighbour of mine, Chelmsford-based The Window Company (Contracts), run by the highly respected David Thornton, is turning down work because of the lack of skilled fitters.

In a recent press release David says: “For the first time ever. We have turned down the opportunity to tender for some of the CIF funded work available in schools over the summer because we don’t believe it will benefit our business in the short to medium term.”

Putting the decision squarely on the difficulty to recruit skilled fitters David went on to say: “Time and again we see good companies fail simply because they overstretch themselves and while there is insufficient skilled labour in the market, that could become a very real danger for some.”

To my mind the issue is simple, but the solution is less so. Using the analogy of the oil tanker requiring miles to change direction, we need a return to the mentality that education in its later years should be used to set someone up for a career ideally, but at least gainful and meaningful employment.

And university simply does not achieve that, for its students or for a society that is dependent upon their contribution.

Whilst a university degree in sociology, for example, might offer me an idea of a job applicant’s ability to learn academically, it does absolutely nothing for me as an employer in any department, let alone fitting or making windows and doors.

What would fill my heart with joy is an applicant that says “I’ve got an NVQ in joinery,” but of course, it has never happened and is very unlikely to.

The industry schemes to attract people into the window and door industry are well meant but, I feel, tilting at windmills. We need societal change to channel young people into learning a trade, and a reversal of the overwhelming compulsion to attend university. Until then, graduates with a degree in Fine Arts need not apply.

And finally…

An item in an American publication, The US Glass News Network, caught my eye, which reports on the effect on construction and manufacturing industries of the legalisation of marijuana across several US states.

In the piece entitled ‘Legalisation of Marijuana Creates Challenges for Construction, Manufacturing Companies’, according to the Quest Drug Testing Index, the rate at which employees in the US workforce are testing positive for marijuana following on-the-job accidents, is at its highest level in a quarter of a century, with rises in positive tests in construction of 14.6% since 2018.

Within the past decade, post-accident marijuana positive testing has increased by more than 204%. An increase in positive testing for amphetamines was also reported.

The report was criticised in comments following the online editorial, with many remarks suggesting that the authors might have imbibed when posting their response. Any simpering liberals that believe in the legalisation of the stuff in the UK, should take note of this alarming trend in the US.