Skills versus Degrees
With schools now back in full flow, attention has rightly turned to how we can help our students catch up and prepare for exams. With a new Education Secretary in situ, the challenges are great, but much of the discussion is now focused on the balance between skills and further education. Over the coming years, as the pandemic generation of school children focus on their futures, we must ensure we are offering a wide breadth of opportunity.
No longer should we be encouraging 50% of young people to go to University but instead we should be placing greater emphasis on the benefits of skills and on-the-job training. How many people, for instance, know that you can now become a British Airways Pilot without a degree, or you can become a banker through an apprenticeship scheme. Within our midst, we have incredible local skills in both old and new fields. From thatching, building to engineering to quantum computing and pharmaceuticals, South Devon offers the opportunity to work in all these areas and far more.
We are, as I have frequently stated, so much more than a visitor economy and only by changing our approach to how we encourage young people, can we hope to build up local businesses and create the jobs and opportunities that we wish to see.
Before embarking on a career in politics, I worked in shipping. As part of the biggest industry in the world, I saw the fragility of the global supply chain. For instance, a bad weather spell in the China Sea would often raise the price of everyday commodities in Australia and New Zealand. Our just-in-time supply networks are so finely tuned and conditioned to eradicate inefficiency, they have created new vulnerabilities.
The world’s biggest ports, from Los Angeles to ARA (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp), Jebel Ali, Singapore and even Felixstowe, are exhibiting the same problems. Container ships, oil tankers and gas carriers are all stacking up at ports as the global supply chain awakes slowly from a period of Covid-induced slumber.
Some may wish to point to the UK’s shortages and shout that they have been brought on by Brexit. However, is it interesting that France, Spain, Germany and the United States are also suffering from the same problems. Perhaps this too is down to Brexit….
Last week South Hams District Council took the necessary step and passed a motion declaring a housing emergency. With only less than twenty properties for long term rental but some three thousand Airbnb properties available, the imbalance must be redressed.
So, what can be done? First, a South Devon survey must be conducted to evaluate the full impact of holiday rentals on local services and resources. Second, my proposal to close the business rate benefit on second homes must be closed before the year’s end. Third, all new properties should be built as ‘primary residences only’. As mentioned above, we have fantastic businesses in South Devon, so we need the employees to live here too.
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