Graduates - you need to think as well as do
Authors: Andrew Sissons
08 October 2010
Simon Jenkins today extols the virtues of manual work in his article Graduates shouldn’t be afraid of the chisel and oil can. While he is right to say that working with one’s hands can be a rewarding and fruitful venture, his suggestion that graduates should abandon their cerebral career aspirations in favour of more traditional crafts is badly mistaken.
Jenkins supports a stronger UK manufacturing sector and he is absolutely right here – the only problem is that most of the manual jobs he celebrates are not actually in manufacturing at all. Plumbers, cooks and gardeners are all vital professions, but they are in the oft-maligned service sector. Many of Britain’s bright young minds do go into our top manufacturing firms – the likes of BAE Systems and Rolls Royce – but they are not just making things, they are also designing, testing and branding world class products. According to the OECD, only 45% of jobs in manufacturing in the UK actually involve making things. The majority of our value-added from manufacturing comes from so-called ‘manu-services’ – highly skilled people who trade in cutting edge ideas.
We need to remember the types of jobs Britain has lost during this recession and where the new jobs will come from, based on data from recent recessions. In the 12 months before March 2010, the UK shed 370,000 ‘production’ jobs and 230,000 jobs in ‘traditional services’. Meanwhile, despite the poisonous economic climate, the UK actually created an extra 150,000 jobs in knowledge-based areas, such as scientific, technical and recreational services. A glance at the figures from previous recessions tells much the same story. As The Work Foundation has consistently shown, it is the same knowledge economy that Jenkins wants consigned to history that is leading the UK out of recession, and will form the basis of our future prosperity.
No one doubts that those who have graduated into this recession (a group which includes me in its number) have suffered, and will continue to suffer. But their future lies in creating and exploiting the big ideas that will keep the UK economy at the forefront of the global economy, rather than abandoning their education and aspiration.
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