Some insight into why our competitive edge will always be blunt

A couple of weeks ago now, I was in the company of a number of senior people from one of of our major national developers.  We were all at attending a conference and  they were representing the sponsor of that evening’s conference dinner.

it was fast approaching midnight in the bar and the mood was jocular and relaxed with plentry of banter between politicians and developers present, as one might expect.  The conversation turned to the skills shortage and in particular the shortage of bricklayers in their industry.  In another life one of the politicians had been a builder, so was quick to agree with the developers’ complaints about the national apprenticeship scheme used to train brickies.

I won’t bore you with the details of their complaint, but suffice to say, that anything involving the principles of good bricklaying, was totally pointless when it came to training bricklayers, in their collective opinions.  As far as those in the know were concerned, it should only take a couple of months at the most to ‘knock out’ a capable bricky.

On the face of it, many people would sympathise with any employer who objected to paying for staff to be trained to a depth they believed would never be used ‘in anger’ so to speak, which of course is why these developers were complaining about apprenticeships for bricklayers.

However, if the belief that the absolute minimum will do when it comes to skills training, is common across all industries that make or build things in this country, we will always lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to increasing national productivity and therefore competitiveness.

The Germans have a far greater respect for non-academic skills than there has ever been in this country.  A qualified engineer in Germany is given the title Herr Doctor to acknowledge their skill and training for example.  Of course I’m not suggesting that all our young Waynes, Jacks, Jills and Johns should now be trained to the level of Herr Doctor Bricky.

However, if you give a young person a good grounding in their chosen career, then they are more likely to aspire to go further than where they started when they first started work.  There are plenty of 30+, or even 40+ tradesmen and women out there doing exactly what they were doing when they were 20, but could now be doing so much more, had they had the right training at the start of their careers.

Teaching somebody more than just how to lay one brick after another in a straight line, until somebody tells you to stop and go back to the beginning and start again, should be welcomed as an investment in our country’s future, not resented as an annoying delay in building your bottom line at the end of the financial year.

Short-termism infects every area of government and private industry in this country – at least government has the partial excuse of the election cycle for this.  This continues to put us on the back foot when it comes to competing with the competition globally.

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Impeach Juncker and make Booker our chief negotiator

Once again, I’ve shamelessly borrowed from Christopher Booker’s writings in the Sunday Telegraph.  He seems to be one of the few, both inside and outside of the political arena, with any real grasp of the issues.

Juncker in breach of his own treaty

By nominating a chief negotiator for Brexit, Jean-Claude Juncker has acted in breach of treaties.
We may be getting used to the idea that senior Tory Eurosceptics seem to be woefully ignorant of all the legal complexities involved in extricating us from the EU. Rather more surprising, however, is the blatant disregard being shown for EU law by no less a figure than Jean‑Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission.
On July 27 Juncker announced he had appointed Michel Barnier, a former commissioner for the internal market, to be “Chief Negotiator in charge of the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU)”. They do like their initial capital letters in Brussels.
What no one seems to have picked up on, however, is that under Article 50 of the TEU and Article 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, Juncker had neither the right nor the power to do anything of the kind.
First, reading these two articles in conjunction, it is clear that the EU’s chief negotiator can only be appointed after a state wishing to leave the EU has invoked Article 50, thus setting the negotiating process in train.
Secondly, Article 218 makes it clear that the Commission can only make a recommendation as to who “the head of the Union’s negotiating team” should be. The appointment itself must be made through a formal decision of the European Council, consisting of the heads of state and government of the other EU members.
Thus, in personally nominating Barnier as chief negotiator, Juncker was not just jumping the gun, he was acting wholly ultra vires, in flagrant breach of the treaties he is sworn to uphold.
It might seem extraordinary that the EU’s most senior official should break the law like this. Perhaps when Theresa May next meets her fellow members of the European Council in September, she should ask them as politely as possible whether they are happy for the president of the Commission to usurp their authority in this way.

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Of course, this is why Juncker acts in this high handed and arrogant manner.  He clearly believes that the democratic element of the European model, is an inconvenient and frustrating obstruction to his vision of a European superstate.

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