§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Viscount Rochdale rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the constraints that continue to deter too many of our ablest young people from considering and preparing themselves for a career in manufacturing industry, and what action they intend to take.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in asking the Question, may I just refer to the expressions of thanks for my alleged patience? In point of fact I have listened to some of the speeches in the last debate, which I have done with great interest as an ex-governor of the BBC along with the noble Baroness at present sitting on the Woolsack. I beg, therefore, to ask the Question which stands in my name.
§ Briefly, my Question is this: how can we best persuade young people who will shortly be leaving schools, universities and colleges, and who will be thinking about their future career, that manufacturing industry should be regarded as a prestige career? That is the question. Manufacturing industry can offer an exciting challenge, capable of stretching the most brilliant brains, and at the same time—bearing in mind that, after all, even today, manufacturing industry is our major creator of national wealth, and in that respect can be regarded as the paymaster of the welfare state—it can appeal to the social conscience of 849 youth, which is very much in evidence today, and provide the opportunity for them to give service as socially honourable and indeed as essential as any other form of career.
§ During the last day's debate on the Queen's Speech on 10th November, discussion was of course concentrated to a large extent on commerce and industry, on our competitiveness and all the problems relating to that. I should be the last to wish to repeat this evening those arguments and counter-arguments. There certainly were some very notable speeches, which I listened to with the greatest interest. But there is one topic which came up which I do want to say a general word about; it is very relevant to my question. That is youth employment.
§ Of course, the need to expand employment opportunities for youth in general, which is so much discussed in so many different quarters today, is of paramount importance. No one can possibly dispute that. But, if the oportunities that can be provided are to be made reasonably permanent and offer reasonable hope of continuing security for work at all levels of ability, including the less able, then it is more than ever essential to attract and hold a significant portion of the most able—my Question includes the word "ablest"—right up the ladder of management in manufacturing industry. So it is on our ablest young people that I want to put the emphasis in my Question.
§ Today, more than ever in this age of developing technology, changing patterns of demand, increasing competition and, often, world over-capacity, a higher proportion of our most brilliant young people are a necessity, in my view, to manufacturing industry. They are a necessity to provide the inspiration, to give the ingenuity and leadership in all fields, whether they be the technological, the administrative or the human field. Of course we have already in manufacturing industry a number of brilliant men and women. But probably right from the very start of the Industrial Revolution, unless there has been some particular family or local tradition of industry, or some special urge to go into industry, it has never succeeded in being the major attraction for the cream of our young people. I believe that to be an historical fact for which there is ample evidence. Too often instead of encouragement to enter industry there has been active discouragement, as I shall try to develop.
§ If we are going to improve this situation, if we are going to establish a career in industry as a prestige career, then I think the corollary is that we have to create a concept of an industrial and technological élite. I know that in certain quarters and in some contexts this word "élite" is regarded with some distaste, as favouring perhaps the few at the unfair expense of the many. But, in the interests of all, we need the most capable and very best qualified to manage the affairs of our manufacturing industry. We have only to look abroad, around the world, to see that other major industrial countries of the free world, notably West Germany, France, the United States and, I believe, Japan, do just that; they regard a manufacturing career as an élite career.
§ We must not—and I see this as a serious temptation—allow the current high level of unemployment to confuse this issue and so diminish the importance of the need I am trying to put forward.850
§ Indeed, I believe the very reverse to be the case, and that evidence could be produced to show that some, at least, of our problems in manufacturing industry today can be put down to the failure in the past to give it the proper pre-eminence it has deserved—and, by "the past", I mean during the last century. I doubt if there ever has been a time when manufacturing industry in the United Kingdom has been given, whether socially or academically, the esteem and importance that it deserves.
§ It is worth for one moment considering where discouragement might come from, and there may be several sources. I have identified four which I will put to your Lordships. The first source is prevailing attitudes, both community and parental. The second is the world of education. The third, and this follows very well after the previous debate of my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, is the media—television, radio and the press. The fourth, regrettably, is even at times industry itself, including the trade unions. However, I am glad to say that in the fourth category there appears to me, as I shall mention later, an awakening to the necessity of doing something, and doing it urgently.
§ The noble Baroness, Lady David, who I am delighted to see is to take part in this debate, had a debate nearly 12 months ago on 2nd December 1981. Her subject was "Education, Training and Industrial Efficiency". Of course, that subject is extremely relevant to tonight's debate and it was a very important debate. Unfortunately, I was not able to take part in that debate but I have read, and in places re-read, what was said. I must say that I received considerable encouragement from all sides of your Lordship's House.
§ As I read the noble Baroness's debate, her objective and mine, though slightly different, were both equally important, largely complementary and, inevitably, showed some degree of overlap. I should briefly now like to put the two objectives together to give them their proper relationship. My objective is to ask how we can best stimulate the interests of our most promising young people—graduates and others—on manufacturing industry and present it to them as a really worthwhile challenge. The noble Baroness's objective, as I read it, is that, assuming that the will to grasp the challenge that I mention has been achieved, every possible opportunity must be established and available for the education and training needed to equip these people to meet it successfully, whether in outlook, understanding of what is involved, technical appreciation or skill.
§ Being no longer, after many years, actively engaged in industry today, though still associated with it in a variety of ways, particularly in the North-West, I am in no position to comment in any detail on what industry's particular requirements might be or on the specific education and training that a particular firm might require. Others far better equipped than I from current day experience can do that. But, reading the debate of the noble Baroness, Lady David, I was greatly encouraged by signs from all sides of the House that there is in many universities a shift in emphasis to science, technology, engineering and related subjects required by industry. That certainly has been my own assessment of the situation in the North-West. The trend seems to be in the right direction, but a great deal 851 more needs to be done and the tempo certainly needs to be maintained.
§ This is not merely a one-sided operation with responsibility resting solely on the academic world, on the world of education and training, to equip itself to offer the necessary courses and facilities. Industry itself—employers and trade unions—must generally take the lead and say what they require and continually be strengthening their links with universities and polytechnics. I do not believe that the importance of the college-industry dialogue can be overstated. In "college-industry dialogue", I include not merely talk or paper based on current or past experience, important as that obviously is, but, where appropriate, some actual two-way exchange of practical effort by some system, however difficult, of individual secondment. I think that that should be a two-way operation.
§ Here again, I am encouraged by what I have seen and what I know is going on in the North-West. I have in mind such universities as Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester and Salford, and polytechnics in Liverpool, Manchester and Preston. I have no doubt that the same applies elsewhere. However, I have some doubts as to how typical this is of some of the older universities where the prestige, the mystique of their name, their traditions and reputation will perhaps tend to draw many of the most outstanding young people away into other disciplines and so away from the industrial contact. I only hope that I am wrong. In this context, I should like to mention an excellent piece of work that has been done, and is still going on, through the establishment of no less than 30—I think the number is growing—student industrial societies in the various universities. I believe that they are doing a very good piece of stimulating work.
§ That brings me to a few words on young people themselves. I do not for one moment suggest that these brilliant young graduates should be featherbedded on entering industry. Indeed, however convinced that this is the career they want—and, of course, conviction is essential—some may well, we must realise, have to modify their ideas of their own value in the early years and be prepared to roll up their sleeves and dirty their hands. That may come easy to some, depending on their background, but with others it may be more difficult and need very subtle encouragement.
§ On the other hand, it is surely equally important that nothing is done to damp down the enthusiasm of youth once it has been aroused. This may call for a very fine and difficult balance to be achieved. Discouragement can come all too easily, whether it comes from ambitious parents—and home influence can be very crucial—from industry itself, or from colleges. It is understandable that headmasters and tutors are naturally proud of the achievements of their most brilliant pupils and are most anxious that they should see those pupils going forward to some career of great prestige. Discouragement can also come from the media. Discouragement can come from all those sources.
§ As regards industry's attitude, this is a difficult point. I can imagine—in fact, I know of—situations that may well create difficulties for some industrial managements which will call for great wisdom, 852 understanding and often humility on their own part, especially if these present managements have not always had the opportunities that are open to young people today. One knows only too well of cases of, "We don't need graduates in our firm. It isn't necessary". Probably that is just the place where they are needed.
§ I should like to say a few words about the media because their influence is most important. What type of reports on industry are we accustomed to hearing on the television or on radio? Do those reports concentrate on the brighter, the successful, the success stories or the interesting? Are they not rather inclined to dwell on the sinister, the dangerous, the health hazards, the disagreements and the picket lines? I am sure that your Lordships will know exactly the answer that I have to those questions.
§ How often in radio and television fiction is the portrayal of industry other than as rather sombre, if not deliberately crooked—something to be avoided if possible? Of course factual reporting must be honest and care must be taken as regards dealing with what might possibly be commercial secrets. But if we see only the more depressing facts getting the headlines because they constitute "news" and may be easier come by, certainly, by some young reporters who have no knowledge of industry and perhaps care less—even though there are many exciting and successful matters to report—this cannot fail to create an anti-industry climate that will influence graduates adversely and urge them to direct their talents elsewhere.
§ I do not want to conclude on a pessimistic note—indeed, the very reverse. I have been greatly encouraged during the last few weeks or perhaps the last month or two by how much thought is apparently being given in a number of quarters to this vexed problem. There was an article in the Financial Times of 15th September, entitled Social Attitudes to Industry, by a Mr. Lorenz. It was very interesting and referred to the "roots of the British malaise". Again, in The Times of, I think, 7th September, there was a quote from the presidential address by Sir Charles Carter, who was then president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and who made exactly the same point. There was a publication by the Schools Council earlier this year on Schools and Industry. As recently as 10th November there was reference in the Guardian to a memorandum by NEDO on Education and Industry—a most valuable and interesting report, which, I understand, is at present under discussion. On a rather more particular and narrower issue, but none the less relevant, in March this year there was a report published by the Policy Studies Institution on Micro-electronics in Industry, to which I shall refer in a moment.
§ There may be other papers, but they all seem to me to point strongly in the direction that I have been talking about: that is, to the need to encourage an élite to run British industry of the future, not merely a few outstanding firms—and we have a number of very outstanding firms—but industry as a whole, so that it can use wisely and to the full all the opportunities available but too often neglected in this country, technological, financial and in the human field, and so be able to stand up to any competition that presents itself.853
§ I referred a moment ago to the report by the Policy Studies Institution on micro-electronics, which quotes a very striking example—I shall not give the figures—and refers to the enormous proportion of manufacturing industry in this country which either does not know, or does not use, micro-electronics in any form whether in its processing or in its products. It is an astonishingly high percentage and it is something that one must bear in mind.
§ What can one hope to achieve by asking this Unstarred Question? Obviously nothing dramatic; but the more that can be said and asked up and down the country on an authoritative basis and as often as possible, to create the climate of opinion on manufacturing industry that I have tried to express—and what more authoritative word could go out than from your Lordships' Chamber?—the more likely it is that the public concept of industry as the élite career for the most brilliant (and not just a second choice, as too often happens) will improve, not for the selfish benefit of the lucky brilliant few, but for the general advantage of all.
§ In asking what are Her Majesty's Government's views on this and what action, if any—I am sure that they have some action in mind—they are going to take, I should like also to thank other noble Lords who are supporting me in my Unstarred Question and say how much I look forward to the maiden speech which we shall shortly hear.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I am sure that we are all extremely grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, for initiating this debate on what is really an extremely fascinating subject. I must apologise from these Benches because we had hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, or the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, would be able to be here tonight to speak from these Benches. Unfortunately they all had previous engagements which they could not postpone. Therefore, it has fallen to my lot to speak for my party on this subject. In fact, I am rather pleased about it because, as the noble Viscount pointed out, this debate does in a way complement the debate which I initiated just about a year ago. So for my part I am delighted to be involved.
In the debate which we had previously a good deal of emphasis was laid on improving the training of school-leavers. Tonight we are talking about our ablest young people. First, I should like to ask: is it true that they are not considering and preparing themselves for a career in manufacturing industry? I have asked a few of my industrial friends about this matter and they say that they are getting the right people. Do we have enough facts? I have discovered that in 1981, 66 per cent. of all men who graduated and entered home employment went into industry and commerce—"commerce", of course, includes accountancy, banking and other jobs and I have not been able to get the breakdown between that and industry. However, I have the figures as regards what happened to the 1,025 men who achieved first-class degrees that year. In fact, 117 went into public service; 54 into education; 223 into commerce; 31 into "miscellaneous" which apparently includes the law; and 600 into industry—59 per cent., which does not seem to me too bad.
854 There were 350 women who achieved firsts: 89 went into public service; 31 into education; 119 into commerce; 19 into miscellaneous; and 92 into industry. In that instance it was 26 per cent. of the total of firsts, and that, of course, is not good enough. A very large number of those with second-class degrees went into industry and I understand that someone with a 2.1 would be counted as among the most able. Therefore I should have thought that the story was not really too bad. I have tried but failed to get the numbers of those graduates from polytechnics and colleges of higher education who went into industry and I wonder whether the Minister responding can give us a breakdown when he replies. I should point out that my figures are for 1981.
There has been a slight fall in demand for graduates over the last few years, but that is hardly surprising because of the recession and general redundancies. Industry apparently expect that there will be a decline, probably until 1984; then they expect to have a shortage of applied scientists and electronic engineers. The cutbacks in the technological universities of Salford, Aston, Keele, Stirling and UMIST will seem pretty foolish then. I have been re-reading our December 1981 debate. The Minister then gave no answer to the many questions that were posed to him about the reasons for the severest cuts being in those universities which were not only producing the sort of graduate industry wanted but which also had very good records of getting graduates into employment. We have a right to know, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said on that occasion, and I ask the Minister: may we please be told now? Also, if he has any figures, I should like to know how many science and engineering graduates are out of work now.
What are the probable reasons? The noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, gave four, assuming that the able are reluctant to go into manufacturing industry. I have managed to get up to 10. They are as follows. First, there is the image of industry as strife-ridden, of plant closures, of shift work, of demarcation disputes, of tensions leading to ulcers and coronaries, of a rat race—an image which conjures up both Dickens' Hard Times and Chaplin's "Modern Times". In fact, of course, most managements have perfectly good relationships with the unions, which you certainly would not guess from the media, who have much to answer for.
Secondly, there is the belief that industry may not offer to the intellectually most able the same mental challenge as, for example, academic research or Civil Service administrative work. Thirdly, there is the reluctance to face the elements of risk, of pressure, of insecurity, and so on. Fourthly, there is a misunderstanding that industry can only use scientists, engineers and technologists. In reality, of course, there are many vacancies open to graduates of any discipline. Fifthly, there is an unwillingness to look beyond the big, respectable blue chip firms—Unilever, ICI, Shell, Marks and Spencer, et cetera. The reality is that these firms are taking a smaller proportion of graduates, whereas many medium-sized and smaller companies need graduates and take more today.
Sixthly, there is idealism. The noble Viscount referred to the social conscience and to people who say, "I want to do something useful; I want to do voluntary service overseas", or, "I want to become a 855 social worker". That may be so, but of course it is also useful to do something that creates wealth, jobs, exports; to build houses and generators, to sell Britain's goods abroad and so on, so that the money is provided for the health and the education services, et cetera. Seventhly, do some of the young think that making money is not a very respectable pursuit? Do they despise filthy lucre?
Eighthly, does the prospect of going to the North or the Midlands, where more industry is situated, seem less culturally attractive than life in the South and South-East?—with fewer theatres, concerts, operas and museums. Ninethly, do young people not like the idea of organising other people's lives? They are certainly often very disorganised themselves, and that goes for the able as well as the less able, in my experience. Finally, there is tradition—the family—snobism. In this country industry has been looked on as less glamourous, less smart than the professions, the Services and the Civil Service. A few industries are perhaps more acceptable than others. I was amused some years ago when a well-known member of the publishing industry wrote his auto-biography; it was called A Career for a Gentleman, sub-titled My Life as a Publisher. Could the public schools and the universities, particularly the ancient universities, have had any influence on this attitude? I would guess so and I notice that the noble Viscount also had his reservations about some of the universities. These are only some suggestions. Of them all, I think that the general attitude there has been to industry, of its being not quite so smart as the professions, has probably been the worst in preventing our ablest young people from venturing there. However, things may be changing.
How much is industry itself to blame for the image that it creates? Has there been a reluctance among established employees to accept high-fliers from outside—the noble Viscount mentioned this—so that when they go in the high-fliers perhaps feel uncomfortable, unwanted and then perhaps report unfavourably to their friends? However, I believe that industry is making a very conscious effort to improve that image. The Industrial Society gave a party here last week and spoke to many of us. They are clearly doing very good work, going into the schools and universities to explain what manufacturing industry is really like and what the opportunities are. One of the things they specialise in is the development of young employees and identifying training needs. They are helping to fill some of the gaps left by the disbandment of the lTBs.
What can the education service do? I think that the schools can help. They have a role to play in providing a general understanding of how the political, economic and industrial framework of society is organised and regulated. This aspect of education has not been provided in the curriculum of most schools. Many young people still leave school with little understanding of social structures and conditions, of basic economic and political concepts, with little idea of what working life is like. The school curricula has been structured according to traditional academic subjects and the content of courses is determined by the requirements of entry to higher education. I think that this criticism applies to all levels of ability.
In wanting to bring about change, the TUC 856 approached the Schools Council with a proposal for a new curriculum project. The TUC and the CBI have been actively involved in this and the Schools Council Working Paper No. 73, published this year, is the result. It is called Schools and Industry. I cannot go into its many proposals here and now, and I do not think that your Lordships would thank me for doing so, but there are a good many and I hope that it will be useful.
A similar view as to the inadequacy and inappropriateness of the school curriculum has come from the Director-General of the National Economic Development Council in a recent paper on education and industry. Through the ages—and he goes back 100 years or more—he sees a failure of the educators to provide the right training both at and post school level for those who might or should have gone into industry. He compares us very unfavourably with other European countries, particularly with Germany. Repeated attempts have been made to make education in the United Kingdom more appropriate to people's working lives, but they have failed. He says that it remains a filtering system for identifying the academically most able.
He sees four obstacles to change. First, the examination system with its academic orientation; secondly, the inability of industry itself to articulate a clear statement of its needs; thirdly, teachers, even if aware of the needs, are constrained by their initial training, which is remote from industry, and by lack of in-service training; fourthly, the allocation of funds, being de-centralised, can be little influenced by industry. That means that those outside education find it difficult to influence a different distribution of resources. He says that all these obstacles need to be tackled simultaneously, and that is the biggest obstacle of all.
I shall be interested to hear what the Government have to say about this paper and whether they propose to pay heed to it. I am amused that much of what the Director-General is saying chimes in with much that the Labour Party is saying. He suggests, too, that the limiting of mandatory grants to anyone admitted to a degree course should be changed and that the extension of such educational claims could be used in one or more of a range of educational institutions, and at any point in an individual's working life. This entitlement to some further or higher education at any stage of a person's career is proposed in the Labour Party's post-18 discussion document, which is to be printed very shortly.
Industry knows that it has not done enough in the past to put forward an attractive image. It has done much more recently. It has funded Project Trident and Young Enterprise, where small businesses are set up within schools. The Young Engineer of the Year Award Scheme has been started. The CBI has set up the Understanding British Industry Programme. But the Director-General says that this type of work needs to be developed with the aim of defining more closely for both sides—industrial and educational—what industry needs. We want to know what the Government plan both on the educational and the industrial side.
Perhaps they will claim, as a major initiative, the new scheme that burst upon an astonished educational world on 12th November, when the Prime Minister 857 announced, in answer to a planted Question by Sir William Van Straubenzee, that a pilot scheme, to start by September 1983, would be developed for new institutional arrangements for technical and vocational education for 14 to 18 year-olds within existing resources—MSC resources, presumably—and, where possible, in association with local education authorities.
Ten pilot projects, 10,000 pupils, initial cost £7 million rising possibly to £35 million to £40 million, are proposed. If the LEAs and the secondary schools do not play, new technical schools will be set up. A lot of questions remain to be asked. How well thought out is this scheme? Is it thought out? Is it a sudden bright idea of Mr. David Young? It could be a tremendous jolt to our educational system. What about 14 year-olds leaving school and working under further education regulations? Is new legislation going to be necessary? Will this stir the Government to bring in a Bill to deal with the legal basis of further education? Try as I may, I can get no answer to that now often repeated question. As the Times Educational Supplement leader on this new MSC plan said:It is ironical in the extreme that while the MSC is taking giant strides to reorientate a large chunk of English and Welsh secondary education, the only serious policy initiatives that Sir Keith Joseph is interested in are loans and vouchers, and these are no more than gleams in a manifesto writer's eye".So, to sum up, what are the main constraints that may be preventing our ablest young from going into industry? The image of industry the media sets up, the long tradition of the respectability of a career in the professions and civil service compared with one in industry, the school and examination system, the division of our culture into two sections, the arts and the sciences—"the two cultures", as the late Lord Snow described them in a famous lecture in Cambridge many years ago—the lack of a third section (in Germany known as the Technik, which can be translated as the art of making things)—-could this lack in our system, this attachment to getting knowledge in preference to applying it, be one of the reasons for our industrial decline and the lack of appeal to the young and able? For if our attitude suggests to the young that it is more useful to know the why of things rather than to produce them, then the abler ones are less likely to be drawn to manufacturing in the course of their working lives. It is a great pity that the Education for Capability movement sponsored by many distinguished people—and many from this House, in fact—has not taken off. I am not quite sure why.
I believe that this Government's strong advocacy of the status quo where the school curriculum and the exam systems are concerned—I might really have said the status quo ante—and their determination to reduce the opportunities of higher education in both the university and the public sectors are going to have a bad and sad effect on industry, and on the likelihood of more of our ablest young taking up careers in that sphere. I should like to think that they might change their views and actions, but flexibility is certainly not this Government's middle name.
But perhaps the greatest constraint on young people going into manufacturing industry now and in the next few years will be the contraction of the manufacturing industries themselves. I said earlier that the information was that demand was on the decline. Good 858 industries have gone to the wall; have gone bankrupt. If still in existence, they might have found work for many able young men and women. I would say to the noble Viscount who initiated the debate, and indeed to the noble Lord the Minister who is to reply, that the core of the problem in the future may well be the Government's economic policy.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Lord Baker
My Lords, I must first thank the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, for bringing forward again this important subject, as he did in December 1978 in the third of a trilogy of debates in that year, of which I had the privilege of introducing the first on the need to encourage enterprise and innovation. The reports of the three debates in that year together make an impressive document which I have studied carefully, but hard as I tried I could not find anything in them really that contributed towards the present inquiry into what deters the best of our young people from entering with enthusiasm into the creative activity of engineering manufacture. I intend to concentrate on the problem of the recruitment of professional engineers, but this does not narrow the field as much as one would think because I am confident that the best managers in manufacturing industry, as in most other activities, are first trained as engineers.
This question, of course, has been in the forefront of my mind for well over 30 years. I confess that it is only by exercising the greatest restraint that I am sparing your Lordships the speech that I first made about 1948, and continued to make thereafter at regular intervals whenever in fact I could find a worthwhile audience. This continued down to 1976 when I took, as the subject of my presidential address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, The Engineer and Survival. In concluding that address I said:We need to attract into engineering a far greater proportion of those with outstanding ability. If we fail in this now we will not survive as an effective people".I was impelled to make the original speech in 1948 when I realised the damaging, false deductions that had been made after the Second World War that our success on the technical side was due to science, whereas there was virtually no original scientific work carried out during the war years. Our success on the technical side was due to superlative engineering—admittedly occasionally carried out by men and women who had been trained as scientists, but then they were acting as engineers.
This emphasis by influential people, who should have realised the consequences of their insistence on the pre-eminent and overwhelming importance of their own speciality, pure science, was a serious constraint on children choosing a career, because it played into the hands of schoolmasters, many of whom were dedicated scientists—dedicated with an almost religious fervour—while there was little balance from the other side since few schoolmasters have been engineers or have any first-hand knowledge of industry.
I had made some attempt to review the position as shown by reports, but the brilliant contribution by the noble Baroness, Lady David, makes my work quite redundant. All the same, it is not surprising to me, in spite of the good life that engineering has given to me, 859 that schoolchildren have doubts about entering manufacturing industry with all its complexities. Can you remember the days when, as children, you went on school outings to a factory? The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said some wise things about such outings in the December 1978 debate. Perhaps it was a trip to a factory, maybe one making turbo-generators, or to a steel mill, or to a shipyard. It was a daunting experience, even if the child was not sophisticated enough to realise that what he was seeing made had first to be conceived and designed.
Talking of such sophistication reminds me of an incident that happened nearly 42 years ago. On the last day of 1940 I took to No. 10 Downing Street the prototype of a new air raid shelter in the hope of getting Mr. Churchill's support. After an inspection and discussion Mr. Churchill approved the shelter and ordered that the necessary steel should be made available for the immediate construction of half a million. Then the party became social, and very pleasant it was. Perhaps to see that I did not get too elated at having secured almost 150,000 tons of precious steel for civil defence, Mr. Churchill amiably poked me in the ribs and said, pointing to the shelter, "It would not take much to design that; not like designing a warship", and of course I had to agree that that was so.
Though it saddens me, it does not surprise me that many young people are more attracted to service industries or professions, which seem easier and nearer to the life they have experienced in school, particularly when the financial rewards in manufacturing industry, to put it mildly, appear relatively poor. Another constraint, if that is the right way to describe it, was introduced by the Robbins plan, which gave every child who could profit from it the right to higher education in any subject of his choice, since it virtually denied industry those hardworking boys who had obtained their higher education in night schools while serving an industrial apprenticeship. Manufacturing industry has been ineffective in attracting them back.
Other constraints comparable in their effect have been introduced recently by the step taken to make the essential economies in higher education by a cut right across the board, so that some university departments of great interest to industry and attraction to the young, such as computer science, bear the same cuts as less demanding and less useful subjects. I never cease to be amazed at decisions that are taken time and again in high places without any regard to the country's economic needs.
I have mentioned only those constraints within a young person's comprehension. I have not credited him with a sophisticated knowledge of manufacturing industry's poor record when it comes to such activities as encouraging innovation. But he will be aware that engineering stands low in popular esteem. This was made clear by the Finniston Report, which has been published and debated in this House since the trilogy of debates in 1978.
The best way of removing the constraint of low popular esteem is, of course, to raise the standing of the engineering profession, and I hope your Lordships will not feel that I am digressing if I look at recent moves. First, starting at the top, we have the Fellow- 860 ship of Engineering, established on the initiative and continued interest of the Senior Fellow, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. It came into being in February 1976. Putting it briefly, it sets out to do for engineering what the Royal Society has done for the past 300 years for natural knowledge. There are now 450 Fellows of Engineering; 60 are to be elected each year until the number reaches about 1,000. The object of the Fellowship is the pursuit, encouragement and maintenance of excellence in the whole field of engineering.
The Finniston Report—or, to give it its full title, the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Engineering Profession—came as something of a shock to the profession, but on the whole it has done good in making us examine ourselves. Out of that report has come the Engineering Council, about which the noble Baroness, Lady Platt, can speak with authority because she is a member. The council was established under Royal Charter, its primary objective being to encourage and improve the efficiency and competitiveness of British industry and commerce by advancing education in, and promoting the science of, engineering. Its policy statement, issued last September, has been well received. In particular, the council is committed to improve the level and quality of the recruitment into engineering.
There are other changes which may at first sight seem trivial, but they all help the standing of engineering. The Science Research Council, which for years supplied research funds for engineering as well as for pure science, has recently been renamed the Science and Engineering Research Council. We now have some chief engineers, and not chief scientists only, in our Government departments. I shall not be content, as I have said before, until this movement turns the Science Museum into what it really is, the Museum of Engineering, or, perhaps a livelier title, the Palace of Engineering.
In the educational field there is much to report. The noble Baroness, Lady David, dealt with one side; I hope to show the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, that his information is not accurate about at least one of the ancient universities. As I say, in the educational field there is much to report, and I shall confine my short account to Cambridge, only because I am still closest to it. Many other establishments could tell similar stories.
There is a Cambridge advanced course in production methods and management which dates back to my time, in 1966. It is an extremely demanding one-year post-graduate course, replacing much of the old traditional two-year graduate apprenticeship. It combines instruction by short courses with assignments in industry, an essential feature being that the students undertake projects in many different firms throughout the country. It is recognised by the engineering institutions as equivalent to at least one year of apprenticeship. Rather fewer than 40 students take the course each year, the number being limited only by the teaching resources that have been made available.
Cambridge, in common with several other universities, set up about 1979 a "Dainton" course—named after the then chairman of the University Grants Committee—and this course is a production engineering tripos. It consists of the first two years of 861 the existing engineering tripos, which, it must not be forgotten, is followed by over 10 per cent. of all Cambridge undergraduates, as it has been the case for close on 100 years. The production engineering tripos follows these first two years by two further years specialising in production engineering subjects. A particular feature of the course is that it includes a considerable amount of time spent working on location in industry.
The admission of undergraduates to Cambridge is in the hands of the colleges, not of the university teaching departments. Anyone who has been concerned in recent years with seeking undergraduate admission to Cambridge will know that the 30 young people per annum on this production engineering course—quite apart from the 300 or more others on the engineering course—must be among the most highly qualified academically in the land. We can be assured, therefore, that some of our ablest young people have considered, and are preparing themselves for, a career in manufacturing industry.
For years, I was a prophet of doom, the doom of our manufacturing industry, a miserable role to play, particularly when one is proved right, even with some help from a worldwide recession. It gives me much pleasure, therefore, to end on a note of optimism.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Lord Russell of Liverpool
My Lords, it is a great privilege for me to address your Lordships' House this evening. It is also a particular privilege to be able to make my maiden speech in a debate initiated by the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale. Time and again in the course of my researches for this debate I have heard of his efforts to forge new links between education and industry and of how much they were appreciated.
Only some four years ago, at the noble Viscount's behest, this House addressed itself to almost exactly the same problem as that with which we are dealing tonight. In the intervening period some progress has undoubtedly been made, but the problem remains with us. Its causes were described succinctly in the 1978 debate, and I shall not endeavour to repeat them all this evening. I feel that harping continuously on the causes, rather than looking towards solutions, can ultimately be self-defeating. One becomes gloomier each time one reiterates the litany of faults, to the point that one almost begins to believe that there is no way out. I shall endeavour to point out that there are solutions, workable solutions, which are being undertaken throughout the country today, and which are worthy of your Lordships' wholehearted support.
The question that lies at the heart of this debate can be simply expressed as, "Why does industry not appeal as a place to work?" The answer is composed of three principal elements—image, education and communication. All three elements interrelate; all are in fact part of a single response. There is a correlation between the image projected of the Stock Exchange and that projected by industry. The City is seen by the media, particularly by television, as peopled either with the harbingers of doom when the market is down, or with jet-set speculators and gamblers when the market is high. Few people reading newspapers or watching television news actually know what the City does.
862 With industry we see the reverse. Everyone knows what they do. They go on strike, they lay people off. They disrupt. They fail to win orders; and anyway, the Japanese make better products. If City people are high-living gamblers, industrial managers are low-living football hooligans. And the problem is that these caricatures of each other are believed by the two separate sides. This is fact, whatever the nonsense factor. We cannot have a thriving economy unless the financial and industrial sectors of our economy each really gets to know about, and appreciate, what the other does. Mistrust does not attract talent; success does—but success relies on talent.
One cannot be too surprised that talent does not take to industry if that talent even partially believes in the image of industry that is disseminated by the media. It is a fact, my Lords, that the ablest young people of today are of the television generation—myself included—and television has a powerful influence on forming images of the world in which they have no experience. A recent attempt by independent television to dramatise daily life on a car production line featured a drunken, Trotskyite shop-steward. The series, called "On the Line", is now, quite rightly, off the line.
One is never going to be able to create a more sympathetic press for industry by coercion. However, if one is charitable enough to contend that the views of much of the media are based on ignorance rather than an informed indifference, then it is here that education and communication have crucial roles to play.
Where we have made advances in the last four years is in the field of education. Education for Industrial Society—a body financed by industry, under the auspices of, or in co-operation with, the Industrial Society—has created many new initiatives of positive value for all age groups. These range from the establishment of industrial societies in universities and polytechnics throughout the country, to a programme called the Challenge of Industry, for sixth formers—including special conferences for bright sixth form girls, who have particular problems in the field of self-confidence—a special programme for middle formers, called Preparing for Opportunity, right the way down to an imaginative series of books to be disseminated in primary schools.
The success of these programmes is underlined by the growing demand for them. The problem is that they require money—relatively small amounts on a consistent basis over and above that already subscribed by industry. Their development—indeed, the long-term development of our industry—depends on the stimulation of learning, not just by pamphlet and rhetoric, but by actual experience, such as that offered by the Industrial Society's Youth Training Scheme, or by Project Trident, or by the young Enterprise Scheme, already mentioned.
Here I have a slight reservation, even though I note the problems. When industry seconds personnel for projects involving schools, it tends to second those close to retirement. Would it not be a firmer commitment occasionally to second bright executives on the way up? The young, wise or not, tend to respond to relative youth more than to age. For reasons that I have never been quite clear about, education is usually thought of as being confined to children. It is fair to 863 observe that many of the children who benefit under schemes such as the Trident Project actually have more work experience in industry than do the careers masters who advise them. This is as true at Eton as it is in local authority schools. I cannot believe that this is the way to attract talent. We should create equivalent schemes for careers masters so as to make those created for their pupils effective.
And so, my Lords, to the question of communication. Your Lordships will appreciate that maiden speeches are nerve-racking affairs, and terror is a great incentive to research. Without this, I doubt whether I should have stumbled across the initiatives that I have cited. I am deeply interested in this subject. But I did not know. Even some careers correspondents and advisers to whom I spoke were unaware of their extent. No scheme works unless the people know that it is there. There would appear to be a stunning lack of appreciation of the need for truly effective communication. Perhaps it is a lack of knowledge of how to communicate.
The Business Graduates Association, of which I am a member, late last year published a report which called for the establishment of two post-graduate chairs in communication. The association did that because the United Kingdom, unlike America, offers no such course. The call for the chairs met with an outstanding lack of response, which inclines me to believe that communication is as much a symbol of virility as is driving. They both tend to be skills that we know we do well, irrespective of our actual ability—sensitive areas where we know that we are beyond reproach. My Lords, we are not. For the most part we are beginners. We shall never attract talent to industry unless industry pays attention to its image, increases its efforts at education, and communicates its attractions, aims, and objectives persuasively. All three are two-way activities. Industry must make the effort. And we, my Lords, must also make the effort.
Your Lordships' House is in a unique position to be able to help effect change in the ways in which society views industry. Your Lordships are members of boards in every sector of industry, the City, local education authorities, training boards, television companies, publishing groups—the list is endless. The initiatives of organisations such as the Industrial Society deserve our fullest support. They are making a concerted effort to remedy this problem. We shall be deficient in our duty to this country if we do not do the same.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, it is with more than the conventional expression of pleasure that I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, on a remarkably well researched and presented maiden speech. He has obviously taken a quite exceptional amount of trouble to put together a great deal of information, compressed into a mere nine minutes. It is a speech which will very much repay re-reading, and we must be very grateful to him. I think that we should be grateful, too, that he chose such a particularly appropriate debate in which to contribute. After all, he is able to demonstrate what our very ablest young are like, and with all respects to my colleagues, he is, I 864 think, the only person in your Lordships' House tonight of whom that could be said. So it was very well chosen that he should join us on this occasion.
As a member of the council of the Industrial Society, which has had a bit of a night out for advertising, I should also like to thank the noble Lord in particular for the boost, the well-informed boost, that he gave to the work of the society. Needless to say I should like to second him very much in that. I hope—I am sure—that we shall hear from him a great deal, and if his speeches are as carefully prepared as was the one that we have heard tonight, we shall all look forward to them very greatly.
There can be little doubt, I think, that for generations now there has been an unholy alliance, no doubt totally unconscious, between the socialist Left and the socialite Right to create the impression that industry is neither ethically nor socially acceptable, with the result that a very great many very able young people have been brought up to believe that industry is not an area of activity to which they can devote their energies with a good conscience and real enthusiasm. Since the Industrial Society has been quoted so frequently, perhaps I may add just two more quotes. The first is from the director of the Industrial Society, who remarked some years ago (perhaps he is beginning to change his mind about this), in a moment of very understandable exasperation, "I need ten young people who want to redistribute wealth for one who wants to create it".
The second is from a member of the staff of the Industrial Society, who told me that on a visit to a teachers' training college to talk about industry she was met on the doorstep (yes, it was a she) by a member of the staff who said, "Oh, yes, you are the person who has come to con us, to con the students, to con the pupils, to go into industry". Those are both true stories, and it is a measure of what you are up against when you are trying to persuade the ablest in our schools to go forward to industry; because, of course, it starts in the schools, and that is where I should like to begin. I shall try not to repeat what has been said, but to underline, perhaps, what has been said in some other speeches.
I think it is high time we got down to the detail of what we are going to do about this, and, again, I should like to urge the Government to think about the development of what I call (for the want of a better name) work education in schools. I think I have said in your Lordships' House before that, after all, we have physical education, art education, and religious education, so why not work education? It would not be difficult to devise a comprehensive programme which would cover something of the basics of economics and the basics of technology but would involve planned exposure to industry: not just an occasional one-day visit, trooping around and hoping that there will be a good tea in the canteen at the end, but a planned period spent in places of work which can be used as an educational instrument in a way that practical work in industry is used as an educational instrument in all the best sandwich courses at the universities and polytechnics.
But it needs someone inside the school to have a major responsibility for doing this: not only to organise what I would call work education but also to 865 help with the careers development and advice to the youngsters, which is still handicapped for a variety of reasons—a lack of resources, but also a lack of expertise in many cases among careers teachers because they are not given the chance or the opportunity to develop it. There is a need, further, for someone to influence the departmental heads in other subjects, so that when they are teaching their subjects they give a slant which shows the relevance of industry in the subject which they are teaching. It is perfectly possible to teach subjects like geography, history and, indeed, literature and, in a natural way, to bring in references to industry which begin to build up a picture of industry which is quite different from the picture that a great many people in schools get at the present time.
But for this you need proper training for the teachers who are going to do it. This is the moment to get started on this, and I do not mean a week in industry and a short course. I mean a very carefully planned course to break down the old conceptions about industry and to build up both knowledge and expertise, so that they can in fact take on this job of the development of work education in industry. With the unemployed teachers we have at the present time, surely it would be possible to embark on a scheme of this kind so that we really did have a drive to get a proper approach towards industry into our schools.
Of course, it is not only in the schools. There is the period that comes immediately after that, and there is the way in which you arrange the immediate post-compulsory school education period. Here, I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply what thinking the Government have done about the development of tertiary colleges—the colleges to which, between the ages of 16 and 18, youngsters can go, either full-time or part-time, either to work for A-levels (and this can include A-levels in traditional subjects) or as people who are already partially based in industry and who are going back to the tertiary colleges for an element of education, however this is organised.
The great advantage of organising A-level work in a tertiary college rather than in a school is that you begin to mix up at this very important stage youngsters who are studying conventional academic subjects and youngsters who have already got contacts with the world of work, and there could be movement across. Youngsters taking some of the academic subjects could also involve themselves more in the applied subjects; and by having the contact over a wider range that you would get in the tertiary colleges you would get the youngsters themselves beginning to understand from the people they meet the kind of opportunities there are in industry and what industry really is like at the present time. I think we must look at this two-year post-compulsory school age educational programme in very great depth. We have been moving around it; there have been hints about what we are going to do; there have been odd experiments here and there, but nobody has made up their mind. I would stress that if we are serious about getting our ablest young people moving into industry, then the tertiary college probably has a very considerable part to play.
Thirdly, I should like to reinforce what the noble Baroness, Lady David, has said about the absence—no, not total absence, but the great shortage 866 in this country of anything which is equivalent to the technological university of Germany. I am sure we have suffered very greatly in this country from the fact that we have not had that development. We made a feeble start in the schools with secondary technical schools, and it fizzled out. We have a very few examples of the kind of thing which has contributed so much elsewhere. May I ask again, as the noble Baroness, Lady David, asked: Why was Aston cut back? Why was Salford cut back? Is it true, as we were told, that it was because the University Grants Committee cut back on the basis of the level of A-level grades of the students going into the colleges? Because if this is so it was bound to affect the technological students because you could get into those universities with a lower level of grade in your A-levels than you could in respect of the art subjects just because it was desirable to boost the technological subjects and to restrict the art students to those who were of very high ability.
If it is true—and it has been rumoured that it is true—that that is how it was done, surely it was a very grave mistake; and is it not still possible to reverse this and to give the boost to those technological institutions that we have, rather than to curtail them, and to encourage further development? Bath—and I declare an interest here because I have a connection with Bath—is surely an outstanding example of what can be done. It is singularly well chosen, in a city of such great beauty, that it should develop its university with a very strong technological bias. When you go to Bath and talk to people in Bath University, you realise that here is a model of a university with very high standards and with a great sense of what a university at its best can be, and yet with continually developing contacts with industry and with work in industry, and an understanding of the industrial problems. Can we not ask the Government to look again here and to see the folly of failing to invest in institutions of this kind?
It is not, of course, only the education side at which we have to look. As other speakers have said, industry itself needs to make certain changes if it is going to be attractive to those of high level ability. One is glad that industry has done as much as it has. The "Understanding British Industry" scheme put forward by the CBI and similar schemes are undoubtedly of value. But I wonder whether there is enough of a two-way flow. People are always being told through these schemes that the schools should understand industry. I wonder whether industry is doing quite enough to understand the schools. Secondment of teachers into industry is absolutely fine. Could there be a little more of secondment of people from industry into the schools? The schools protest—and, I suspect, with some justice—that people in industry, like all the rest of us, tend to think about schools in terms of what we knew when we were at school or of what one particular set of youngsters that we happen to know tell us about their experiences at school. This is a very unscientific way of forming one's judgment about what is going on. There have been great changes in the schools. If industry could arrange to second people more into the teaching section as well as vice-versa it surely would help.
The second point that I want to make about where industry could well be planning to do a good deal more 867 is that I know—and your Lordships' House will think this is a King Charles' head with me—that nearly half the wits in this country are in female heads. We live on our wits, but you really would not think so if you looked at the extent to which industry still is failing to make use of female wits. Since 1975, there has been a dramatic change in the number of women going into the established professions. There is no corresponding change in their entry into industrial management. I know that there are special reasons for this, not least because of the recession which has made it very difficult to make promotions of this kind at a time when, alas! industry is cutting down rather than recruiting. But at the same time there is a need to take advantage of the ability of young women to an extent that has not been taken advantage of until now.
We have, of course, the brilliant exceptions. We are going to hear one of the brilliant exceptions in a few moments. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Platt, will be the first to agree that a few special women engineers of high repute is no substitute for having a real inflow into industry of young women of high-level ability. Small things are being done. The Engineering Training Board sponsored and developed an extremely good programme, working together with industry and the universities, to get bright, young sixth-form girls to go for courses in the long vacation for a week or a fortnight—which is a collaboration between universities and industry—explaining what industry is all about. I had the privilege of attending one of these and was very struck with the way in which these young women were taking it in their stride—yes, they might be an electrical engineer but perhaps civil engineering was more exciting. They were discussing this as a perfectly normal kind of job to choose. But there are far too few of them and a real drive to get more of these young women is badly needed.
My Lords, the only other thing that I should like to say is on something where other speakers have made the point about the image of industry and about its risky nature. surely, we can encourage people to take risks and to find an exhilaration in taking risks rather than to seek security. I think it is folly for industry to go round pretending that it can offer security. It cannot. It can offer people the challenge of meeting risks and overcoming them.
Is there not one further thing that Government can do? We have talked about interchange between industry and education. Surely, we would benefit if Government would take into the Civil Service on an exchange basis far more people of high level out of industry and send their civil servants out into industry in exchange. A very little of this is done, but far too little. It is true, is it not, that there is still this feeling in the traditional Civil Service that, somehow, the chap out of industry, the engineer, is a person of a totally different order. I heard one who had suffered from it say—perhaps not fairly but I think he has a point—"They say that if they treated us as equals, we would become their masters". That, I suspect, is the fear that lies behind it.
But, my Lords, I am sure that France has gained enormously from the fact that it trains its leading managers and civil servants together; that they move in and out easily from the industrial world into the 868 world of government and of administration and back again, with an understanding of each other's problems which must be of inestimable value. Cannot the Government take a lead here?—not in the very minor way in which it has been done in the past but seeing this as a major development so that bright young people can see, as the bright polytechnists in France see, the opportunity of a really exciting career, partly in industry and partly in the public service. There is much that Government can do.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Rochdale for initiating this debate which is of considerable importance. I think it is sad that we had to take our place second in the queue and find ourselves speaking late with relatively few people about—the more especially because we had the privilege of hearing the brilliant maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool. He really deserved more people to listen to him. Let us hope that he makes more speeches of that sort to us so that the House as a whole can have the benefit of hearing his splendid form of address.
My Lords, I will endeavour not to repeat what other people have said. A great deal has been said which is limiting what one can put. I must say that I saw—although I am not sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, saw this—that my noble friend's Unstarred Question related on the whole to graduates rather than to other people coming out of school; although I suppose that one could look at it both ways. I should mention perhaps that my own son graduated and got a history degree and is now working in productive manufacture on the production side as a management trainee. Therefore I have a little knowledge of his motivation and background, which governs a certain amount of what I have to say.
Perhaps, my Lords, we could look at one or two things which have not been mentioned. One is the vast change that has taken place in industry in the last 35 years or so. There are now far fewer medium-sized companies and, in some industries, there are no medium-sized companies in the old-fashioned style. There are very big companies, there are subsidiaries of very big companies and there are small companies. There is nothing very much in the middle. In the industry to which I am most close, the biscuit industry, in 1947 there were 450 separate firms. In 1977, there were 45. That is reflected in a lot of manufacturing industry. I should mention that the 45 factories now produce more biscuits per year than did the 450 some 30 years beforehand. This makes a tremendous difference to the numbers of opportunities that there are for young graduates to get into productive industry, because there is not the scope, there are not the same numbers of places for them as there were 35 years ago. That is a fact that we must live with. My Lords, in a sense, I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Baker, who said that the best managers were trained as engineers. I would say that some of the best managers were trained as engineers. I would suggest to him that companies which concentrate on having only engineers to manage them—and this is the tendency these days—lose a certain breadth, particularly when the managers have grown up to board level, in the 869 interests of the wider issues which people like my son, I trust, will provide to his company (if he stays with it) at a later date, he having been trained in history and having a wider outlook on things than most of the engineers that I know—although, of course, not the noble Lord, Lord Baker. So that is another disadvantage: the companies have narrowed their vision of whom they want to have as their management trainees. That is a third factor, a fact which is restricting the opportunities for some of the ablest young men to get into the companies in the first place.
I was recently talking to a senior manager of a company who himself went into productive industry from university with a history degree or something like that in either the late 1950s or the early 1960s. He was saying, quite independently of what we are talking about and quite independently of what I was saying about my son, that he, too, felt that he was the last of a generation of "generalists" going into front line management in manufacture. He thought that it was probably to the disadvantage of manufacturing industry that this should be coming about.
There is another fact and that is that with the passage of time there are more opportunities for people in the professions and there are more vacancies in the public service because the public service has become vast—thanks to the machinations of noble Lords opposite—over the past 30 years, and this has meant, therefore, that there are more opportunities for people in that area. That creams them away from productive industry on which—and I repeat what other noble Lords have said—this country absolutely depends. We cannot lose sight of the fact that productive industry is the base from which this country especially must depend.
One turns now—having missed out quite a lot that has already been said by other people—to the question of who is going to do anything about it. It seems, from my noble friend's Question, that he was expecting that the Government were going to take some kind of action, and it is quite clear that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, also thinks that the Government should take some action. When we are talking about universities, I do not think that the Government really have anything very much to do at all. The less they meddle the better. The best people to improve on the situation are industry itself; industry widening its vision to see what it wants; industry taking in management trainees, and industry trying to get the best that it can find to solve its problems. As many people have said, a great deal can be done by the universities, realising that they have a function to perform in encouraging their undergraduates to go into productive industry and in portraying it as being a worthwhile and thoroughly practical thing to do, and also by showing industry as an area in which in some respects there is great opportunity. One can say that there is more opportunity there because as the less able people go into productive industry, graduates that do so stand a better chance because they will do better than the not so able people.
There are all sorts of areas in which the universities can help. The media do not help. I find the media very difficult these days. They are threshing around rather like stranded whales. They give me the impression of 870 not quite knowing where they ought to put their emphasis. Whether they want to follow some vision that somebody has or whether they want to take a lead, I do not know. I do not want to waste too much time talking about the media but I think that they are a massive disappointment at the moment and they ought to do a lot of sharp looking at themselves to see how they can help the rest of us live our lives more satisfactorily.
Finally, I should like to mention what, as I see it, young men who do not go into productive industry most importantly are missing. I see them missing the chance to grasp on a relatively large scale the industrial relations problems which are the most intractable that face us in this country, and probably will continue to be so for some years to come. Also in that same context they lose the opportunity of seeing across the whole range of industry what all levels of workers have to undergo and how they mix in both with themselves and with the machines that they have to work. If they go into the professions or into the City they do not get a chance to do this; they experience it second-hand. Maybe the best that they get is what the media tells them—and your Lordships know what I think about that.
The most important aspect is a really good practical grasp of industrial relations. Every enterprising, intelligent young man and woman ought to want to be in there at some stage in his or her life to know what it is to be in negotiation with other people, trying to understand the problems of others as well as one's own. I see the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, nodding his head. He knows what I am saying because he has had to do it. This is vital to every young person. They really ought to pursue this. The more intelligent they are, the more they ought to do it and not isolate themselves in the plush buildings in the City. I get quite annoyed about that.
The next matter which is extremely important is this. It is no good being a merchant banker if you have not at some stage in your life achieved a grasp of the fundamental problems of manufacturing a product to meet a market. You must endeavour to achieve that before you start becoming a grandee, a management consultant or someone of that type. You must get your hands and feet wet doing the job. The intelligent people ought to want to do this and they should be encouraged by their universities to want to do it.
Then one needs to have a grasp of marketing a product, which is quite a problem all of its own. That is something which demands special talents that, with the greatest respect to the noble lord, Lord Baker, is not only in the hands of engineers. Finally, there is the grasp of knowledge about financing the manufactured product for the market. Most of the people who go into the professions do not ever come up against that, yet they have to pontificate about it.
Really, there are so many splendid opportunities that it seems sad that people should not be helped to understand that these are the roots on which this country so much depends. I hope that the universities will listen and will pass the messages on. Furthermore, I hope that the few companies that are left will, like the best ones, sell those things that I have been spelling out as an attraction to young people to come to their 871 companies. They must say that it is not an easy job. These people are not looking for a soft job. As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, they are not concerned about pensions when they start; they need to be encouraged to join a company because the work is tough, not because it is easy. That is what the companies can tell them, and that is what the rather woolly-headed dons can tell them, too.
§ 8.28 p.m.
Lord St. John of Bletso
My Lords, may I join those of your Lordships who have followed my noble friend Lord Russell of Liverpool in congratulating him most warmly on a fine maiden speech. As a comparatively new boy, and one of the youngest Members of your Lordships'House, I particularly welcome him. He is only the third Member of your Lordships' House to possess an MBA Degree, which makes him an expert in the subject of this debate. And when I use the word "expert" I am not using that old definition: "'X', an unknown quantity, and 'spurt', a drip under pressure".
I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, for having introduced today's Question on young people in industry. The noble Viscount first introduced this important topic before your Lordships' House four years ago and his perseverance in bringing it up again today is evidence—if a Cross-Bencher may borrow a slogan from the Conservative Party conference—of "The Resolute Approach". Indeed, a resolute approach is what is necessary. I need not add to what those noble Lords who have already spoken have said about the gravity of the problem.
Fortunately, there is a bright side. Like the noble Lord, Lord Russell, I should like to commend to the House the work of the Industrial Society, which has been plugging away to get a better understanding between young people and industry for as long as the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale. I refer in particular to two schemes promoted by the Industrial Society and funded by industry. First, there is the industrial experience scheme, whose object might almost have been written with this Motion in mind. INDEX, as the scheme is called, aims to foster closer links between education, industry and commerce by encouraging more able young people, regardless of their choice of career, to develop a greater understanding of the worth of industry and commerce.
Under the scheme, schools are asked to nominate their most talented and able sixth-formers for attachment to well-known large companies for six months between school and university, with no commitment on either side. Secondly, there is the Careers Research and Advisory Centre, which issues publications and runs courses to help students to find the right career. The CRAC also runs a programme called "Insight" in which young managers from different organisations help to run an intensive programme of business games, case studies and work simulations designed to help students find out what people in management do, what working in industry is like and what rewards and demands are involved.
However, it is not so easy to commend the vastly expensive and bureaucratic Youth Training Scheme administered by the Manpower Services Commission 872 at the instigation of the Government. When the scheme was announced almost a year ago its cost was put at £ 1,000 million. Goodness knows what it costs now. I suspect that the scheme has one good purpose and two bad ones. The good purpose is helping young people to prepare for industrial life. The two bad purposes are to remove several hundred thousand young people artificially, expensively and temporarily from the employment statistics and to make it look as though the Government are doing something about unemployment.
Well-intentioned though the Youth Training Scheme is, the net cost in jobs destroyed in the general economy is greater than the number of jobs created by the scheme. The reason is that the cost of the scheme has to be raised from general taxation. The House of Lords Select Committee on Unemployment reports that the cost to the state of a young, single unemployed worker is at least £60 a week. Over and above this basic cost there is the expense of a training scheme which, in the opinion of many employers and many young people, is worse than useless.
For instance, one of the main elements of the scheme is "to ensure that basic skills like numeracy and literacy have been acquired". Only yesterday I spoke to one employer in industry who said that he was in the habit of giving spelling tests even to university graduates with supposedly good degrees. Many of them failed. He also gave a simple arithmetic test to every potential employee. The failure rate was 90 per cent.
If our young people are leaving school unable to read, write or add, there is no point whatever in throwing billions of pounds at fine-sounding but ineffective youth training schemes. The money would be better spent on improving the standards of education in the comprehensive schools. The problem is not that too little cash is being thrown at the unemployment question but that too much is being thrown around with too little thought. The Government are killing several industries every day by overtaxation. They must now seriously consider doing what they were elected to do and start cutting their own expenditure, not only in the field of youth training—however unfashionable that reduction may appear to be—but in other fields. The over-expenditure and under-productiveness of local, nationalised and central government destroys many more jobs than it creates. That is a root cause of unemployment.
The Government have failed, are failing and probably will continue to fail to face the question of the intolerable burden which over-taxation imposes upon industry because they realise that cutting unnecessary public spending means cutting unnecessary public sector jobs at a time when unemployment is already too high. The cost of employing workers wastefully in the public sector is substantially greater than the cost of employing them productively in the private sector, yet the private sector is forced by law to pay inordinately large rates and surcharges to subsidise the inefficient working practices of the state. The present astronomical unemployment is the inescapable result.
873 There is one overriding reason why the rate of unemployment in Britain among young as well as older people is higher than in most other countries. There is one overriding reason why the manufacturing industries of this country are collapsing one by one. That reason is the wasteful and burdensome expense of our machinery of Government and the overtaxation of industries which that over-expenditure entails. It is only when the root cause of unemployment is tackled by an Administration with the vision and the courage to do what is right that the young and talented people of Britain will find the work for their hands which ought to be their birthright but is not.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Baroness Platt of Writtle
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Viscount for raising this subject today and for the sentiments which he so inspiringly put forward in his Unstarred Question. I should also like to congratulate, as have all other noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, on a brilliant maiden speech. Perhaps he has answered the noble Viscount's Question. At least one young man is prepared to spend a good deal of time preparing a speech on this subject.
I am sure that all Members of the House want to see the industrial and economic upturn of our country. It will happen only if able young people choose to go into manufacturing industry. The right honourable Patrick Jenkin said recently:British manufacturing industry is still, and will go on being, one of the mainstays of the British economy. It accounts for one-quarter of our gross national product, provides one-quarter of our employment and accounts for three-quarters of our exports. It helps finance our schools, hospitals and the services provided by the local community".In 1976, the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, in evidence to the House of Commons Select Commitee on Science and Technology referred to the contempt with which society at large so obviously regards those who create the wealth which everyone wants to spend. This is partly a matter of respect.
When I went down from university, I worked in industry, and I liked it. It was during the war. I was in an aircraft factory and we worked long hours. I still remember the coldness of that factory when the greater hangar doors were opened to let out one more aircraft to help to win the war. I still find it fascinating.
Recently I went back to British Aerospace. The factory I visited had belonged to Hawker Aircraft, the firm by which I was employed. I went to see the Harrier production line—the Harrier which worked so magnificently during the Falkland campaign. I heard from an engineer there how they had overcome the problem of controlling, both laterally and longitudinally, the performance of an aircraft with no forward speed. It had been overcome with comparatively little difficulty. Again I found that to be exciting.
Recently, I visited a ball-bearing firm in Chelmsford, where the general manager described to me the development of a silent ball-bearing that is very important in submarines. It was being developed by a team of experts. Again there rose the sense of excitement at being part of a team and achieving a 874 breakthrough in developing a very important, though very tiny, item in submarines.
These things are exciting, and it is important that young people should know that. It does mean that the people who are doing them in industry must go into our schools and colleges and describe them with some enthusiasm. The younger those people are who go in the better it will be, because the nearer they will be to the young people they are trying to persuade. It does also need, as your Lordships will expect me to say, a positive programme of initiative by the local education authority. I want to speak from the point of view of my own county of Essex, which has done a great deal in this field because we believe strongly that it is important.
We have a central education/industry committee locally in all our areas. We bring together teachers, industrialists and councillors. Often they are very far apart to begin with in their point of view and in their suspicion of each others' point of view. But, as the meetings go by, they begin to realise where their common aims are and to work together. As they work together, that improves the opportunities for young people of going into industry and commerce and getting worthwhile jobs.
We also put our industrialists on governing bodies, where they can form very close local links and give the sort of work experience to which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, referred—because they will know the rural science master and the craft, design and technology master and can arrange for the more interested young people to work in their local firms. We also second teachers into industry—inviting, as many noble Lords have said, the Industrial Society into our sixth forms, where young people can discuss the human problems in industry as well as the technological ones and how they might be solved.
We have close relations with the Science and Technology Regional Organisation—SATRO—and it provides prizes for projects year by year, which is encouraging schools to develop young people's aptitude for problem-solving in practical terms. Also, our curriculum ensures that all young people do maths until they are 16. Most do science and, of course, technology. As the noble Baroness, Lady David, mentioned, we take part with Trident and with UBI. These are all things that one has to keep at endlessly to change an attitude within schools and society. Many noble Lords have referred to local initiatives.
It will take a very long time for attitudes to change. As Abraham Lincoln said, we all have to keep pegging away. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, referred to my membership of the Engineering Council, and I do regard that as a great privilege. When the policy statement was launched recently, Sir Kenneth Corfield, our chairman, referred to the people concerned with producing the product, without whom the whole concept of the engineering dimension becomes meaningless. The most highly prized asset of any organisation, irrespective of its size or specialism, is its people—and not least its engineers at all levels. Sir Kenneth also underlined the council's commitment towards creating a cultural attitude within society which acknowledges the value, virtue and necessity of engineering as the basis on which the nation's health and prosperity depend. The council is aware of the 875 urgent need to attract more of the best intellects into engineering.
One of the many initiatives that will come to fruition over the coming months is an Industrial Central Council for Admissions—an ICCA to parallel UCCA, which we hope will mean that industrialists, universities and polytechnics will get together to see that there is more industrial sponsorship and more provision of sandwich courses, which are so vital to young people in understanding what manufacturing industry is really about.
We come then to society itself. We all like the Arcadian and the rural and many think of industry as being dirty, tough and inhuman. It is, of course, only as human as the people in it. The other day I was walking in my village—and my village badly needs a by-pass, as I have said before—and a great juggernaut went driving through. As the Armstrong Report said, all of us instinctively fear juggernauts. But this one was driven carefully. It did not take the bollard with it, it did not mow down any old people or children, and it did not scrape the kerb. I was struck by the fact that that juggernaut was being driven by a skilled driver and a man of understanding. It is the man behind the machine that will always count. I went even further back in the life of that lorry to think of the designer who designed it with good brakes and with a reasonably quiet engine, and the engineers who maintained it to ensure that it was safe. This all comes back to the need to have inspired and able young people behind the machines and to realise that it is the people who count if the machines are not to rule our lives.
We are proud of the emancipation of women in this country. Women have the vote and the privilege of being Members of these Houses of Parliament. Equally important to women are the applications of electricity. Washing machines, electric lighting and central heating are all conveniences, and, had they not been invented by scientists and engineers and produced and marketed by manufacturing industry, women would still be scrubbing shirts and mangling them, trimming and filling oil lamps and humping heavy scuttles of coal. The products of manufacturing industry have freed women from drudgery and made their lives much pleasanter and more interesting.
I was for a number of years on Cambridge University's appointments board. We made a study of why second year undergraduates did not want to go into manufacturing industry. I remember particularly one young man saying that he did not want to go into industry because it would not use his originality, humanity and creativity to the full. I submit that manufacturing industry would use just those qualities to the full. The able young man or woman needs to have the courage to be so used. It is the men and women behind the machines who ensure that the machines are humane—whether they be lorries or computers. Young women often say, "I want to work with people". Manufacturing industry consists of people. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, will be interested to hear that last weekend I was discussing this with two young women technicians who are in middle management and who are controlling other people in manufacturing industry. They were talking to me with great enthusiasm about their 876 work and about the personal and technological nature of that work—and they were obviously leading very satisfying lives.
It is up to us to do all that we can to remove the constraints which deter our ablest young people from taking up a career in manufacturing industry, whether it be as engineers or in the production and marketing process. They are all equally important. Their talents, their imagination, creativity and humanity will help to improve our environment, make industry more humane, contribute to our prosperity, and benefit society as a whole—and, I submit, give those same young people a very stimulating and rewarding career in their lifetimes and appeal to their undoubted idealism.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Lord Brain
My Lords, first, I apologise for not putting my name to the list of speakers until the middle of this afternoon because I was not aware that I should be able to be present. I should like to join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, on his maiden speech. Having only recently taken that step myself, I remember how it feels. I felt that the noble Lord's sincerity and the great fluency with which he delivered his speech showed a great confidence of thought, and this gives the House great confidence in the noble Lord's future contributions to our debates. I would like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, for introducing this topic and pick up two or three small points purely on the Question.
The ablest people are not just the first-class degrees, but also any graduate these days because all graduates have gone through. While the noble Baroness, Lady David, quoted first-class degrees going into industry, I think it is perhaps very often the good seconds that do not get there and should be encouraged to go there, because they are part of our ablest young people.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, I did say that a great many second-class degree graduates had gone in, far more than firsts. The numbers were considerable; I have them and I will give them to the noble Lord later.
§ Lord Brain
My Lords, I was not wishing to criticise the noble Baroness's figures; I was rather trying to re-emphasise that even more second-class degree people should be encouraged to go into industry. I beg the noble Baroness's pardon. I also fear perhaps that many of the people who go into industry do not go sufficiently, as they should, into the manufacturing side of industry, but get diverted into other tasks; but that is in passing.
I would like to pick up briefly the comment of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, about the French educational system. Having worked in France, I felt that this balance between the cadres and industry and Government worked very successfully, and in particular they had adapted the cadres and the rest of the management of their industrial organisations much more efficiently than we appear to be using graduates in British industry. I think there is something British industry can learn in using the ablest people in the management of their companies.
I think British industry has not recognised anything like sufficiently the point made by the noble Lord, 877 Lord Baker, about the change in the education system; they have lost these very good people who came in as apprentices, in the actual manufacturing side, and went to day release courses and won higher national diplomas and such qualifications, and they have not replaced those people by graduates in their recruitment pattern. In particular the small to mediun sized firms, where the management themselves have not degrees, having come up by this route, feel that people with degrees are academic and not practical enough. They are not looking for the right people; they are not giving the right image to the ablest people to go in and join them and use their ability.
Much has been said about university training and I will not repeat that, but I would perhaps join with the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, in saying that engineers are not the only people who can manage industry. Industry is now a team. Engineers have a very important part to play in it, but if their instructions to the people who have to make things and buy things are not written in a language which those people can understand perhaps an English graduate, for example, is a valuable member of a management team running manufacturing industry. I would wonder whether some of the people who heard Lord Baker's speech this evening might not feel that the views he was expressing may deter some of the ablest non-engineering graduates from entering industry. I put that forward as a point.
Much has been made about people seeing a greater challenge, a greater variation in jobs in merchant banking, the stock exchange and things like that. Industry does not make enough of the day-to-day challenge of what goes on in industry. It is seen to be pedestrian; there is a great fear that you will get stuck in Manchester, Chelmsford, the South-West and you will not move about the country, whereas if you are in a nice job in a merchant bank you will have admirable opportunities to go round the country. I do not think this is true. Industry should make it much clearer that there are a lot of very pleasant jobs in industry to be done round the country.
Finally, I think there is not enough made of the cultural gap. Many families have a tradition of going into the professions. Fewer families of the more recent graduates being brought up through the new education system have any tradition as to where their graduates go. There is a frightful feeling that, because the parents or the grandparents were working on the shop floor in industry, it might not be right for this highly educated generation to go into industry, trained as they are in perhaps the French language or history. I think that there is a need for people to realise that history is ! applicable to industry, that just because your father worked on the shop floor there is no reason why you should not begin your training on the shop floor and then go on to where your graduate and degree status justifies.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, in answering this Unstarred Question, I, too, would like to echo the remarks of other noble Lords who have congratulated the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, on bringing up this subject. It is a vitally important one and one of 878 which the Government are thoroughly apprised. He has explained his case in the most lucid and helpful way, certainly helpful to someone who is winding up a debate of this sort for the first time. It has been a very good debate. I have learned a great deal from it. It has been full of positive ideas, although I am afraid I do not think I shall follow the noble Baroness, Lady David, nor the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, down the road of the Government's economic policies tonight, if for no other reasons than time. Equally, it was an enormous pleasure to listen to the wonderful maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool. He said that he thought it was a nerve-racking affair. I can assure him that from this side of the House he showed no signs of any nerves whatsoever. His speech was clearly extremely well thought out and brought with it a great deal of depth of thought. We will all, I know, look forward to reading what he said in due course, and I hope that many others outside your Lordships' House will do so. We will also all look forward to hearing him on this and other subjects again in due course.
As regards the substance of the debate, I think I can say at the outset that the Government largely go along with many of the views that have been expressed tonight. Several noble Lords have said that they did not want to go down the repetitive channel of talking about the historical and cultural aspects of it, but I fear that I am going to repeat some myself because I think that is a way in which we can put the whole thing into perspective. There is no doubt that industry has failed to attract to itself enough of our ablest young people. In large measure this is due to cultural attitudes which have grown up over the last century or more.
In 1850 we were the most powerful, influential and technologically advanced nation in the world; since then we have been in relative decline because of a lack of competitiveness by British industry in a number of areas. Several reasons have been suggested to explain this. Some people lay the blame on successive Governments, others on management, or on trade unions, or even on the loss of the Empire. But it seems to me that one main underlying cause lies in the historical development of our culture, which has influenced our attitudes to life and to the nature of employment, and which has had a significant impact on our educational system. It is a characteristic of this culture that those activities which relate directly to the business of profitably designing, manufacturing and marketing goods are generally regarded as less prestigious and less worthwhile than are many other activities, such as the pursuit of scholarship or academic knowledge, fundamental scientific research, certain professional occupations or even following the arts. We have allowed an anti-industrial, anti-commercial and anti-entrepreneurial attitude to develop in our society which is unique to the United Kingdom and is part of the so-called "British disease".
The Industrial Revolution had its roots in the North of England. It took place around 1704 to 1780 without the benefit of a formal education system, but there was at that time a general enthusiasm for experiment and innovation, based on "shrewd heads and clever fingers". What knowledge we had was applied to the solving of practical problems. Thus, we developed massive water-powered textile mills. Watt developed 879 his rotary steam engine and entrepreneurs pioneered the smelting of iron with coal and steam. We made vast leaps in technology and productivity.
This upsurge carried on, as we know, until about 1850. And then, when we were at the height of our powers, we began to slip. As a nation we failed to realise that innovation was increasingly the result of systematic application of science to production, just at the time when our competitors were beginning to recognise that fact. In Germany, for example, university trained scientists worked in the new industries and there began a close collaboration between applied science in higher education and research in industry. In Britain we tended to concentrate on "pure" science and to regard "applied science" as somehow inferior. Many people still do. As a result we lagged behind particularly in those industries which depended most upon applied science, such as the chemical, including dyestuffs, and the electrical industries, both of which were beginning to grow rapidly.
In 1872 we had only 12 people reading for the natural sciences tripos at Cambridge, most of them intending to become doctors of medicine. yet by that time in Germany there were 11 technical universities and 20 other universities. That is a rather shaming fact. In the United States over 70 universities were flourishing, mainly related to local business and farming, and the educational traditions of postgraduate science organisations in Germany were quickly adopted in the United States.
On the other hand, our advances in education at that time were relatively slow. By 1851—the height of our power—only about one half of the children in England and Wales were getting any education and there was very little technical education at all. In the private sector, public schools developed with an emphasis on a liberal system of education dominated by classics, theology and a tradition of mathematics which was unconnected with science or applied science. This liberal education, however, was an excellent preparation for the professions or public service in the Empire or at home. Thus, at a time in which the economy of the country was becoming more and more dependent upon its ability to compete internationally, we were developing an educational system with values which elevated the status of service to the state and the professions and depressed the status of designing and manufacturing and of being involved in trade or commerce. It is not surprising, therefore, that it has been said that by the end of the 19th century we had the finest Civil Service in the world but at the expense of industry.
We still produce first-class people with brilliant creative ability who win international acclaim in the arts and science. We win a disproportionate share of Nobel Prizes. But we are still relatively slow in adapting to changing market conditions and in accepting and applying new technologies. The strong anti-enterprise culture which has developed discourages many of our brightest from taking risks or from going into industry and business. The business of taking risks was a point produced by several noble Lords this evening. So we need to restore that esteem for manufacture and commerce, for technological development and excellence. We need to ensure that 880 young people acquire the knowledge and skills and understanding which will equip them to make a useful and satisfying contribution to the development of their country.
Our examination system dictates to a large extent the curriculum and subject matter in schools and is designed to fit university entry requirements and places a heavy emphasis on academic achievement. The pursuit of academic distinction, of scholarship and the importance of academic freedom, has been universally accepted as an end in itself. It is only in recent years that some people have begun to question whether this emphasis has been in the best long-term interests of the country and of pupils, and to recognise that there can be no freedom in education unless we are able to create the wealth to support it.
As our industries have had to face increasing international competition and as our technological expertise, which has been the foundation of our national wealth, has been overtaken in so many areas by new technologies, it has become increasingly apparent that our education system has not provided in quantity the people we need to develop and expand our wealth creating industries. However, whereas three or four years ago, we were still asking the question whether there should be any relevance in our school teaching to industrial development, the question commonly asked now is what can be done to improve the better mutual understanding between schools and industry? It is through this mutual understanding that more of our ablest young people will be challenged to consider what contribution they can make to industry. They need to see how industry, and manufacture in particular, contribute to national wealth and serve society in the provision of better living standards. They need to realise that products developed and marketed in Japan do not help improve these standards in the United Kingdom.
It may be helpful to go over some of the points that have been raised by noble Lords in the debate and endeavour to answer those I can. The noble Baroness, Lady David, asked particularly about figures for the placing of graduates, about university cuts and about science and engineering graduates being out of work. I am afraid I do not have the figures for her on graduates out of work, but I can say that in 1979 only 15 per cent. of United Kingdom graduates were engineers and 20 per cent. were scientists. Perhaps it would be helpful if I followed up these remarks with a letter, after having sought out the figures for which the noble Baroness asks.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, asked about university cuts. The University Grants Committee recommendations have effected a broad shift in emphasis towards engineering, applied science and technology. I shall read her remarks and if there are any further points that I can help her with I will, of course, endeavour to ascertain the details and let her have them.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but we have asked so often and received no reply why it was that the technology universities of Aston and Salford—let us be specific about them—suffered a disproportionately heavy share of the cuts. The Government have repeatedly 881 said that this is the business of the University Grants Committee. I should like to echo the noble Baroness, Lady David, who said that it is our business, too. We should like to have an answer.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, I have said what I can for the moment about the University Grants Committee. I shall look into the matter further and see if there is anything further that I can do to help the noble Baroness. The noble Baroness also asked about tertiary colleges. Some local education authorities have already developed tertiary colleges. Other authorities are giving increased attention to links between schools and further education institutions, recognising the value of the contribution that this can make towards bringing young people into touch with industry.
The noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, mentioned two schemes, INDEX and CRAC. They are, in fact, separate from the Industrial Society to which he referred, but they are, in conjunction with Trident, UBI and others, all strongly supported by the Department of Industry.
My noble friend Lady Platt of Writtle referred to SATRO. These, of course, are set up by the Department of Industry on a network throughout the United Kingdom. The noble Baroness referred, as did others, to the Engineering Council, which has, of course, an important part to play in raising the esteem of engineering and encouraging able young people to take up engineering careers. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Platt and her colleagues will continue to make a most positive contribution in this field.
The Government place great importance on the development of a mutual understanding between education and industry in order to break down the constraints which deter able young people. Within the Department of Industry is an Industry/Education Unit engaged in helping to change attitudes towards industry in co-operation with the education departments and others. This unit has as objectives encouraging a greater mutual understanding between industry and education, including the vital role of manufacture in wealth creation, and encouraging more of our young people, including the more able, to consider careers in industry and the subjects which may lead to such careers.
Let me give your Lordships a few examples of the activities in which this unit is involved. The annual Young Engineer for Britain competition demonstrates the creative design and technological aptitude of our young people. There is, of course, no doubt about these aptitudes, which are abundant among our young people. What this competition also does is to encourage the channelling of these abilities into projects which are responding to a need, which are cost-effective and which are commercially viable. A number of the projects submitted to the competition by young people at school have indeed been taken up commercially.
The EPIC Award (Education in Partnership with Industry and Commerce) encourages collaboration between university departments and individual companies. There is a need to examine the relevance of examination syllabuses to industrial applications, and the unit supports the development of case study 882 and other curriculum materials in, for example, physics and chemistry, which approach the subjects in a problem-solving way, and which help young people to develop their skills in working in a team, making decisions and working to deadlines, as well as acquiring knowledge.
Teacher secondments into industry and vice versa are important since, as was pointed out by several speakers, many teachers will have gone from school, through college or university and back to school without experience of the industrial world. Increasingly, companies are helping to give this experience and are thereby also improving their understanding of education and the responsibilities that teachers have to their pupils.
The unit has recently supported two films, which are now available to schools with teachers' notes, encouraging young people to consider the challenges offered by entering a small business or, indeed, setting up on their own. There are already projects in schools where young people are setting up their own entrepreneuial activities, giving them a taste of the qualities required. The importance of introducing young people early to the technological world in which they are growing up is, of course, of particular significance. Your Lordships will know that the Government are helping schools to obtain microcomputer equipment. In the secondary sector, this has meant that more than 5,800 out of a total of some 6,000 secondary schools have acquired equipment in the last two years, and I believe that this is a world first in responding to the technological challenge, such as it is. A similar scheme was opened in October for primary schools, and it is already clear that the response to this is very enthusiastic. The important point is how this equipment is then used to give young people an awareness of the potential of technology, not just as an aid to learning—which it undoubtedly is—but as a wealth creator in terms of the creation of new products and processes and in increasing competitiveness and efficiency in almost all industrial sectors. The facility and enthusiasm with which young people use and experiment with technology must be encouraged in an open-ended, problem-solving way and not confined to any small corner of the curriculum.
These examples perhaps serve to illustrate some of the ways in which the constraints deterring young people from entering industry can be overcome if we are to achieve the markets we need in an increasingly competitive world. The enthusiasm with which young people respond certainly gives me great encouragement, but many more of these activities are needed to permeate the curriculum and correct the imbalances in attitudes which I described earlier, and which other noble Lords also described this evening. Vital though it is, it is not enough to encourage more of our most able people into industry. This must happen alongside a much more widespread understanding of industry's role and a more positive attitude among all young people. Those in industry as well as in education must redouble their efforts to make this happen.
I know that the Question which the noble Viscount tabled refers specifically to the more able, but we must not forget that about a quarter of young people leave school without any form of GCE, CSE or similar 883 qualification. Industrial strength depends upon these young people being encouraged to make a positive contribution just as much as their peers who have a greater academic ability. The academic concentration of our present examination system does not always help these young people to make the most of their abilities. Yet, when given the opportunity to develop technical and practical skills, these young people will often forge quickly ahead.
The information technology centres which the Department of Industry and the Manpower Services Conmmission are setting up—some 150 of them all over the United Kingdom—give basic awareness and training to young school-leavers in computing, microelectronic applications and assembly, and modern office skills. Young people without academic qualifications respond enthusiastically to these courses because they are relevant to the modern world and help them to go after opportunities which would otherwise be closed to them.
Evidence so far shows that a high level of skill and competence can quickly be achieved by young people often seen as troublesome and low achievers while at school. This suggests that much greater effort is needed to provide this kind of experience at school. Technological developments give chances greater than ever before to offer young people the most relevant opportunities. For example, a micro-computer can help a slower learner work at a suitable pace just as much as it can help the faster pupil forge ahead.
A facility with the technology itself is also, of course, not confined to the academic pupil, but gives enormous opportunities for design and development work across ability age ranges. Kenneth Adams, a fellow of an education trust set up by Mr. Dimitri Comeno, summed up as follows:When people, for whatever reason, are unable to recognise the necessity, value and indeed the virtue of the principal activities by which their community earns its living, they face a major ethical dilemma which will be a cause of deep malaise among them. If you cannot assume, affirm and celebrate the value of the principal activities by which you and your community live, you cannot take a positive and hopeful view of your own future. You cannot say "Yes" to your own future if you do not say "Yes" to the activities on which that future depends".The Government agree with that. We must all work to encourage young people to say "Yes" to their industrial future and then go on to say:And this is what I can do about it".
§ House adjourned at eighteen minutes past nine o'clock.