THE BLOG

Miliband to the Rescue?

09/07/2014 11:26 BST | Updated 07/09/2014 10:59 BST

Ed Miliband is absolutely spot on with his proposal to introduce technical degrees. Whether or not there really exists a 'forgotten 50%' is up for debate and most likely depends on which figures you read, but the opportunity to pursue a vocational degree can only be a positive step forward.

Degrees are seen as intellectual indicators more than anything else. They're a standard to be reached with a view to ticking a box and then moving into a profession which is often barely related to your subject of study. For some people, they're perfect as they open up areas of employment only accessible with a degree such as medicine, the legal sector, high finance, security services etc. However, the number of students ambling into higher education has risen sharply over the past couple of decades. In 1988, 600,000 students were in full time higher education. In 1996, this number stood at over 1 million and the recent hike in tuition fees has hardly impacted the number of people embarking on degrees. The academic year 2012/2013 saw 1,800,000 undergraduate students alone.

The problem that exists is the number of people pouring out of university with degrees, doesn't match the number of career opportunities for graduates (no prizes for pointing that out). But this isn't a problem that needs to exist. The reason that the graduate jobs market is in such a dire state is because too many people are going to university that shouldn't bother. People who don't really know what they want to do waltz off to university to piss around for a few years and bag themselves a 2.2 in a subject they don't actually care all that much about. I'm not saying you should have a clear idea of where you want to end up after your degree - but by the same token, why spend all that time and money when you could be earning?

Miliband's plan could be a complete saviour for our higher education system. People always bring in the Germany argument and how right they are! Their model is exactly the one we should endeavour to replicate. Those less academically committed, but with ambitions nonetheless, can get the skills and knowledge they need on vocational apprenticeships which in turn helps the economy no end. There's a reason those fine chaps weren't making a sing-along about their 'English whip' - we can't produce anything anymore let alone a car to be proud(?) of. But with technical degrees this could all change. It would be fantastic to see more goods produced in Britain (well, England) and to invest in skills that are necessary to get us there. The Germans have bigger and better industry and produce quality goods from pharmaceuticals to lignite. In England, the people that could be achieving so much in these kinds of industry are pissing around at university and messing up the job market for serious graduates. It's not their fault - they're better than getting bogged down in retail (well, some) but they're never going to make the best of the degrees available to them.

It's about time this happens, I've been saying it for ages. We're wasting good British (English) skills and talent. We need to look at our industry and production in the same way as we look at our underperforming national football team. Start from the bottom up and in a couple of decades we might have new, thriving sectors.