Letters to the Editor


Dear Sir,

I am writing to congratulate you on your editorial, ‘A balanced skill base’, in the August/September issue of Ingenia. We have been saying much the same for years and I thought out of interest you may care to see a recent (unpublished) letter to The Times which referred to a similar (published) letter I wrote 12 years ago – reproduced later in italics.

Perhaps out of the current debacle surrounding A levels a new approach will emerge – maybe based on the International Baccalaureate? Whatever is done must surely change the flawed ‘prizes for all’ policy and move towards a system which gives equal recognition to people with a more practical aptitude.

For too long this country has been hidebound by academic snobbery to the extent that is becoming increasingly difficult to find an apprentice trained, EngTech qualified plumber or anyone else at that level –the numbers of which have always been minimal. The ETB is destined to embrace the ‘wider universe of engineering’ but how will it achieve this objective when prejudices run so deep? I agree with you, the time for tinkering has to stop. Fundamental ‘root and branch’ surgery is needed to tackle this malingering disease.


Twelve years ago almost to the day, your leading article ‘Training on track’ (9 August 1990) highlighted that Britain needed to become better skilled. You also pointed out that over the past decade the Government has created and abolished training quangos with great energy but little result.

Since 1990 history has repeated itself with, for example, Training & Enterprise Councils (TECs) becoming Learning & Skills Councils (LSCs) and National Training Organisations (NTOs) latterly reforming themselves into Sector Skills Councils (SSCs). A system heavily dependent upon the voluntary participation of a small number of employers – in our industry mostly micro-SMEs and ageing sole proprietors – clearly does not work. Fundamental reform is urgently needed.

The Institute of Directors is right when it says that ‘ … there is a pressing need for this country to learn from and adopt the German-style system. We simply fail to understand why successive governments cannot (or are too timid) to grasp the nettle …’.

I asked this question on your letters page on 18 August 1990. I ask it again today.

Yours faithfully

Andy Watts MBE EngTech MIP RP

Chief Executive and Secretary The Institute of Plumbing

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