Scottish Independence – New Jobs

It is simplistic to argue that new jobs and  better employment prospects will automatically flow from independence. What should be easier will be the creation of the conditions for that improvement.

But it is a big task and will take a number of years. We actually rely on incomers (what a pejorative word!) in many walks of life from top surgeons to farm workers to skilled tradesmen to carers to the catering industry and many more. Does that mean that the indigenous population is genetically incapable of doing any of this. Of course not, but a cultural habit has grown over time which has meant many people, parents and children, lack the ambition and the skills  to be self-sufficient.

That requires a change over many areas of life starting with education and training and including our benefits and taxation system. Education must start with valuing the contribution that every child can make. Tony Blair’s mantra of 50% going to university set a disparaging tone for the other 50%. Why should a person with a degree be more valuable to society than a person without one? People should be judged by their contribution not their qualification.

Let’s hope that after Independence we have leaders who can rise to this challenge.


After Independence – What Jobs?

It is worrying when the Bank for International Settlements is suggesting that the world economy is more fragile than it was in 2007/8. I have always thought that politicians had really only pushed the problem further down the road and that nothing had actually been done to create a more stable and sustainable economic environment.

Radio 4 Today programme ran a piece about the Chinese developing a railway link from China through to Europe. This may or may not be a good thing for the West or China but it is is another signal of quite how enterprising Asia and in particular China are in grasping every opportunity to develop their economies.

The mantra by the Yes and the No campaigns has been about how it will be better for jobs in the future, either in an dependent Scotland or in the existing Union. Neither side specifies the type of jobs apart form vague murmurings about IT, Creativity, Inventiveness, Science and the like. But the West is lagging way behind the emerging economies in terms of those kind of jobs. Doubtless there will be niche markets and success stories, but we actually need to concentrate on the vast army of the poorly paid, the low skilled and the un- or under-employed. Our education system in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK is still not  fulfilling the needs of the up and coming generation. Many people, especially the young, are meandering from one unfulfilling  occupation to another, rudderless.

So what jobs will be there in the future. For a minority, there will be jobs requiring intellectual ability in Science, in Arts, in IT as well as the old professions of the Law, Education, etc. But to be really prosperous Scotland cannot afford a large group of citizens who are unable to contribute for all sorts of reasons, mostly not of their own making. One category is the jobs which cannot be readily automated and are labour intensive. These include the traditional trades of joiner, plumber, electrician, the caring professions, nurses, social care officers, home care workers, the entertainment and leisure industries such as catering, personal services such as hairdressers, public  transport particularly buses and no doubt others that I have not considered. But our education and training systems must provide young people with an enthusiasm for these kind of jobs as well as a good liberal education and it must become the norm for youngsters to expect to leave school to enter training for these kind of careers if they are not going into more academic further education. I have said elsewhere that the transition from school to the world of work is woefully inadequately catered for in our system and yet it is where most of our young people falter and often fail to grasp good opportunities.

Scottish Examination Changes

Fiona Hislop, the Eduction Minister, announced major changes to the Scottish exam system.  Amongst other things she put forward the idea of a national certificate for literacy and numeracy.  I am reminded of the old O Grade Arithmetic exam.  The questions always tested the same basic skills, just the numbers changed.  I know that sounds a little simplistic but unlike some modern exams which seem to be designed to show candidates what they don’t know, this aimed to show them what they did know.

I remember some Computing Studies exams which were designed to catch out teachers who failed to cover every last detail of the syllabus and made only a passing nod to the essence of Computing.

It would be good if this new exam made certain that all candidates who passed had a set of basic skills which did not vary or dumb down from year to year.

Computing As Taught

Gordon McKinlays’ post about the teaching of Computing in Scottish schools very much endorses my feelings as an ex Computing PT. The subject has had a very mixed existence highlighted by the fact that the name kept changing from Computer Education to Computing Studies to Computing. In its very early days the programming element for an O grade certificate once included programming a BBC computer to display a simulated car dashboard with flashing indicators and a moving fuel gauge and speedometer if my memory is not exaggerating it. Nowadays programming hardly features in the curriculum. Partly I suspect the emphasis on word processing etc., came about through an ex Business Studies teacher being on the national subject panels.

Today, I think the only justification for Computing as a subject is teaching the analytical skills of programming and the fundamental structures of hardware and software, i.e Computing Science. This would be very much a minority subject and would free up the hundreds of computers in Computing rooms for more useful purposes as you need very little access to a computer to teach the subject in that form. Then they could be used across the curriculum to improve access to Glow.