Sometimes the protective shield of the full time cynic fails. This happened to me in class today. I was engaged with a group of 18-19 year old students who are on the final leg of A level ICT. They do quite a bit of stuff on ‘systems’ a topic rather analogous to the jobs of well paid bright young things many years ago whom we called ‘Systems Analysts’.
During the session reflecting on the past jobs I found myself giving ad hoc careers advice. This is not uncommon, nearly all of the young people I meet are distinctly uneasy about the future. And indeed they might be; youth unemployment is at a record high and the cost of a degree sits ill alongside the prospects of their friends and relatives who have returned from University to live at home applying for unpaid ‘internships’ to no avail.
Returning to the ICT class above, what I had said was a well known homily to the effect that ‘if your job can go down the wire it will’. In other words anything that can be done via the Internet will be outsourced to brainy folk in poor countries who will work for next to nothing. Much as some would like it otherwise the inhabitants of Ist World countries are not inherently smarter than those elsewhere and this is especially true for anything to do with computers where autodidacts rule.
After class a young Asian man came up to me and said that ‘he did not want to have one of those jobs’ so what should he do? He was thinking not of next year but 10 to 20 years ahead when he would have a wife and family.
I had already, in a flight of rhetoric, convinced them that programmers would live in Nigeria and work for $1 a day, user support would be done for free by unemployed graduates in Gateshead and that with the demise of Windows, computers would be as reliable as mobile phones, DVD players and TVs. Ok so I may have over-egged the pudding for the sake of getting the attention of the audience but I and they realised that in all important respects it was true.
So there I am preparing my group for unemployment, if not now but later! Luckily I also mostly teach chemistry so can offset my personal guilt but even so is there any point to my ICT class?
What’s to be done? I had no ready answer for the young man other than to become a fireman, policeman, mechanic, doctor, nurse, accountant, builder, gardener, shop-keeper, trader, plumber, Judge or criminal ... but promised to think hard about it.
Hmmm, with respect to ICT and computing I was a little stumped until I read a full page add in the paper attempting to convince suckers, sorry I meant ‘students’ that an masters degree in business administration (MBA) was a good idea and perfect for SMEs.
Aha!. There it is. Michael Gove our Secretary of State for Education has introduced the ‘English Bac’ for 16 year olds to encourage schools to teach their students maths, English, a modern language and science (they don’t..you knew this?), I will introduce the pre-uni MBA. It will combine the best bits of Accountancy, Stats, Business Studies and ICT A levels. This would be the perfect combo for SMEs looking to employ young people in business situations.
Later they could have day-release or sabbaticals to study whatever they think they will need., even psychology or media studies ... job done what a great idea an MBA for free, I must tell Micky.
Whilst typing this post I am listening to the radio and they are interviewing Pearsons the giant publishing house who have just bought an Indian on-line tutoring system called Tutor-Vista (for £80 million) who deliver one to one maths teaching to UK and US students...aarg, I’ve been ‘down the lined’.