James Prescott Joule (1818-189)

(British physicist, mathematician and brewer born in Salford Lancashire was a brilliant experimenter and scientist who studied the nature of heat and laid the foundations to thermodynamics and kinetic theory through a number of pioneering discoveries and initiatives).

James Prescott Joule was born on New Bailey Street, Salford near Manchester on 24th December 1818 son of Benjamin and Alice Prescott and was one of five children. His father was a wealthy brewer a business which he succeeded to later in his life. He was mostly home-schooled by his aunt and later studied arithmetic and geometry under John Dalton a famous chemist at the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. He later studied under the famous scientist and lecturer John Davies.

Slightly deformed, with symptoms of spinal problem, Joule started working in his father’s office at the age of 15 where he acquired an interest in science and came to to appreciate the relationships between the temperatures and pressures of gases, between pumping and heating, simply by observing the brewery in operation. Interest to note this was similar to Priestley who studied the properties of carbon dioxide in a brewery. Joule was driven by a powerful love of experimental investigations and was an outstanding experimenter.

Joule studied twice a week under John Dalton then president of the Manchester Philosophical Society from 1817 to 1844. Dalton was largely responsible in imbuing Joule love of experimentation. When he was 19 years of age Joule converted one of his father’s rooms into a laboratory and constructed an electro-magnetic engine and published his first scientific paper. He submitted his first findings for publication to William Sturgeon’s ‘Annals of Electricity’.

In 1840 he replaced the brewery’s steam engines with electric motor and achieved greater efficiencies. In 1841 he carried out an experiment to establish the relationship between electrical resistance and heat in a conductor this became known later as Joule’s first law.

In 1843 Joule announced his discovery what became the first law of thermodynamics *(see below) which related the relationship between energy and work. In 1844 he measured the ratio of work needed to compress a gas to the heat of 4.27 joules/calorie. In 1845 Joule reported an experiment using a paddle wheel (see the two diagrams below) to understand the conservation of energy. He proposed that in the experiment mechanical energy was converted into heat emery and this later became known as the ‘Law of Conservation of Energy’.

By 1849 he showed the indestructibility of energy – the conservation of energy, the mechanical equivalent of heat and the existence of absolute zero. He provided the foundation for mathematicians to develop the theory of heat and the importance of efficiency of heat engines on their working temperatures.

He did not need the prestige of being a university professor to promote his discoveries to the world of science. For example in 1847 at the age of 28 he presented a lecture explaining his discovery of the laws of the conservation of energy at St. Ann’s Church, Manchester.

He read papers at the British Association at Cork (Ireland) in 1843, at Cambridge in 1845 and Oxford in 1847. Before he reached the age of 30 he was elected to honorary membership of the Royal Academy of Science at Turin and the Royal Society.

In 1854 he sold the brewery and moved to Oak Fields, Whalley Range. South Manchester and continued to work for long hours and paid little attention to his health. In 1861 he moved again to Thorncliffe, Old Trafford. Throughout his research he attracted criticisms from neighbours about the noise of his experimental engines.

He had met William Thomas also known as Lord Kelvin in 1847 at one of his presentations at the British Association in Oxford and later worked closely with him making many important discoveries including the Joule-Thomson effect – namely measuring the temperature changes when forcing a gas or liquid through a valve kept insulated so that no heat is exchanged with the environment and the concept of absolute zero. They also further improved the efficiency of steam engines especially for marine use. The two men laid the foundations of kinetic theory including the velocities of molecules through air. They worked together for over ten years. He also worked closely with Lyon Playfair who was a strong advocate of technical education (See biography on this website).

He often suggested that his theories linking heat and mechanical work would show that the water at the bottom of water falls would be higher than at the top and he with others to visit the Niagara to verify this finding.

In 1878 he received a civil list pension of £200 per annum from the British government in recognition of his services to science.

Joule achieved ground breaking discoveries over a period of forty years and is now recognised for this by the adoption of the Joule the S.I. physical unit of work/energy.

Joule died on 11th October 1889 and buried in Sale at the age of 70 years. The gravestone is inscribed with his 1878 measurement of the mechanical equivalent of heat namely 772.55 a figure which is very close to todays’ value again showing his brilliance as a researcher (Se diagram below). A statue of him by Alfred Gilbert is placed at the entrance of Manchester Town Hall opposite to John Dalton (See diagram below). A pub located in Sale ‘The J P Joule is named after him and the family brewery now exists in Market Drayton.

Honours: Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) 1850. RS Medal 1852, Albert Medal (RS) 1880, Copley Medal 1870 and a number of honorary degrees.

President of Manchester Lit and Phil Society 1860. President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science 1872.


  • When heat is converted to work, the process is never totally efficient, e.g. when steam drives a piston, most of the heat energy in the steam is converted to mechanical energy but some is wasted heating up the sides of the cylinder. The first law of thermodynamics states that the energy used in doing work will be equal to the amount of work done – that energy cannot be created or destroyed.


J P Joule. ‘On Matter, living force, and heat’. Lecture given in 1847, reprinted in S.G. Brush. ‘Kinetic Theory’ Volume 1. ‘The Nature of Gases and of Heat’. New York: Pergamon Press. 1965.

Joule. J.P. ‘The Scientific Papers of James Prescent Joule’. London. Dawson’s. 1965.

Bottomley, J.T. ‘James Prescott Joule’. Nature. 26. Pages 617-20. 1882.

Cardwell, D. S. L. ‘James Joule: A Biography’. MUP. ISBN 0719034795. 1991.

Fox, R. ‘James Prescott Joule 1818-1889’. In J. North. ‘Mid-19th Century Scientists’. Elsevier. ISBN 0-7190-3479-5. 1969.

Steffens. H. J. ‘James Prescott Joule and the Concept of Heat’. Watson. ISBN 0-88202-170-2. 1979.

James Brindley (1716-1772)

(James Brindley a pioneer in canal building and a brilliant civil engineering designed a number of important canals and made a number of inventions. He played a significant role in developing the way canals were built during the Industrial Revolution transforming the British landscape and helping to unlock a new aspect of the Industrial Revolution).

James Brindley was born at Tunstead, near Buxton, Derbyshire. He moved with his family to Leek to farm as a labourer. In his spare time he carved model windmills with a small pocket knife which were then geared to turn a paddle wheel which highlighted his innate practical ability. In 1733 he was apprenticed for seven years to a wheelwright Abraham Bennett who lived in Sutton near Macclesfield. Bennett was not a good master spending most of his time drinking and neglecting his duties to the apprentice Brindley. As a result he learnt very little but gradually started teaching himself having to carry out emergency repairs whilst Bennett was absent. In the autumn of 1735 a small silk mill at Macclesfield and owned by Michael Daintry was damaged and Bennett allowed Brindley carry out the repairs. He impressed the mill superintendent James Milner who predicted that Brindley would become a gifted craftsman. With Milner’s support and encouragement after he finished the Daintry Mill other mill owners approached him and this work expanded both in scale and range. People often asked him how he had become a good worker and often said ‘it came natural-like’ and he was called ‘the Schemer’. Bennett at first thought Brindley was a bungler in-spite of not supporting him but soon realised Brindley was a very skilled and became Bennett’s right hand man after the work for Daintry’s mill and as a result this saved Bennett’s business which ten gained its professional reputation. He remained with Bennett after his apprenticeship ended, running the business until his employer’s death.

He was approached in 1750 by the brothers Wedgewood John and Josiah who were operating a small pottery business near Stoke but were struggling in getting sufficient powdered flint an essential material for the pottery. Brindley then built mills which could produce flint powder at Burlsem located near Leek. The following ten years he worked on a number of water and wind mills and became interested in steam engines and subsequent installed several atmospheric engines. Josiah Wedgewood invited Brindley to join the Lunar Society (see website)

As his reputation grew he was approached by John Heathcote owner of the Clifton collieries near Manchester to drain his mines which were flooding and that the traditional methods at that time were not effective. This was his most ambitious project when he created a drainage scheme  that took water from the River Irwell through an underground tunnel over 731 metres long that ran under the river to drive an overshot wheel, which then pumped out the mine. This achievement highlighted his brilliance at engineering skills, knowledge of hydraulic problems and innovation

He also built five tunnels and a number of aqueducts at Harecastle, Hermitage, Barnton, Saltenford, Preston-on-the Hill and Barton. Harefield tunnel was not completely finished until 1777 five years after Brindley’s death and was at the time the longest man-made tunnel on the world being approximately 2,750 metres. The quality and scope of his work catapulted him into a national figure. Eventually he became a rich person and in his will left £7,000 a considerable sum in those days in-spite of money owed to him by the Duke of Bridgewater estate and other sponsors. Barton is shown below.

Brindley suffered from diabetes throughout his life and this coupled with his incredible workloads resulted in his final illness whilst surveying the Trent and Mersey canal at Froghall and subsequent death at the age of 56. He is buried at St James, Newchapel Staffordshire.

Below are some achievements of James Brindley:

1716 Born at Tunstead, Derbyshire.

1726 Brindley family moved to Leek.

1733 Apprenticed to Bennett.

1737 Completes machinery of paper –mill for Bennett who realises what an excellent apprentice he has.

1742 He starts business as a millwright in Leek.

1750 Opens workshop at Burslem and in 1752 builds Leek Mill and starts Clifton Hydraulic Power Scheme.

1752 Constructs Leek Mill and Clifton Power Scheme.

1756 Builds a steam engine at Little Fenton and in 1758 patents a steam engine.

1758 Designed windmill to grind flint for Joseph Wedgewood. Patents design for a steam engine boiler.

1759 Partnership with Duke of Bridgewater begins.

1761 Barton Aqueduct opens to traffic.

1762 Surveys for the Chester Canal and Branch Canal to Stockport carried out.

1763 Provides advice on the Lower Avon Navigation improvements.

1764 Supervises construction of Bridgewater Canal.

1765 Appointed Engineer to the Calder and Hebble Navigation.

1766 Starts work on the Grand Trunk Canal.

1767 Surveys for Bradford, Rochdale and Stockton and Darlington Canals carried out.

1768 and 1769 Surveys for the Leeds and Liverpool, Leeds and Selby and Oxford canals carried out.

1770 Draws up plans for the Thames navigation improvements.

1771 The construction of the Chesterfield Canal starts

1772 Survey for the Lancaster Canal. Died on 27th September.


Bode, H. ‘James Brindley. An illustrated life of James Brindley 1716-1772.’ Shire Publications Ltd. ISBN 0 85263 485 4. Lifelines series 14. 1992.

Boucher, C. T. G. ‘James Brindley Engineer, 1716-1772.’ Goose and Son.

Evans, K. M. ‘James Brindley, Canal Engineer – a New Perspective.’ ASIN B00LUVLMU0. Churnet Valley Books (Bath Street, Leek). 1998.

Halward, L. ‘Famous British Engineers.’ The Scientific Book Club.

Smiles, S. ‘James Brindley and the Early Engineers.’1864. Reprinted by Hanse. ISBN 9783744662192.

The Brindley Mill, a working water-driven mill restored as a tribute to him and containing the James Brindley Museum is located close to the centre of Leek in Staffordshire on the A552 between Macclesfield and Leek.

Brindleyplace in Birmingham is named after James Brindley and statues of him exist in the Coventry Basin and Etruia workshops across the Caldon Canal at Stoke-on-Trent.

The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) Charter:

This piece provides more detail about the CIPHE CPD charter and complements the previous article on this website which focussed on the concept of CPD. The CIPHE charter is a welcomed initiative as the Institute is an influential professional body and has provided an excellent example to the other professional’s bodies on this strategically important topic.

The charter reinforces the importance of CPD and its commitment in the plumbing and heating engineering disciplines.

As a Professional Engineering Institute the CIPHE supports the CPD Code adopted by the Engineering Council for its registrants but believes that all individuals within the water industry, construction industry and built environment sector should undertake CPD1.

Adoption of a CPD Charter which is not exclusive to the CIPHE stresses the benefits of CPD and   career progression. The purpose of the CPD Charter is to increase public perception and increase confidence in professionals they appoint. It will also ensure that skills based on agreed competency requirements are supported and met by industry. The public will benefit directly by the workforce being upskilled on a regular basis and as a result will have greater confidence in the professional competence of tradespeople.

The CPD Charter commits an individual to:

  1. Agree to invest in skills throughout career through lifelong learning
  2. Support career progression by carrying out and recording 30 hours CPD each year

iii.            Participate in a minimum of 10 hours ‘compliance’ accredited training programmes

  1. Share knowledge and expertise with others
  2. Monitor, evaluate and reflect on CPD (mycareerpath 1)

There are many ways in which individuals can achieve CPD, including attending training courses, seminars and exhibitions, from mentoring employees and apprentices to reading industry publications. The CIPHE recommends that individuals should obtain 30 CPD hours per year under the following activities and provides guidance on maximum hours to be obtained under each.  This guidance can be used to help you to complete your CPD record.

Below are examples of what constitutes CPD

3.1 Training Courses and Workshops

Training courses that are specific to developing your plumbing and heating knowledge and skills are eligible for CPD. Distance learning training is also acceptable.

Evidence required: A copy of a signed certificate.

3.2 Conferences and Seminars/Lectures

The following are eligible for CPD:

Conferences and seminars organised by the CIPHE

Conferences and seminars organised by other industry related organisations

Individuals who are involved in the delivery of seminars and lectures can also claim CPD hours for both the preparation and delivery of the presentations.

3.3 Attending Exhibitions

It is recognised that attendance of industry related exhibitions counts towards an individual’s development and attending such exhibitions qualifies as CPD.

3.4 Technical Writing

The writing of published technical articles, papers, journals and books can qualify as CPD.

3.5 Mentoring

Supporting apprentices and the following activities are eligible for CPD:

Mentoring apprentices and trainees

Part time teaching/lecturing by non-academics

3.6 Private study

Private study as to learn new skills and/or improving qualifies as CPD including the following:

Online research

Viewing Techtalk Live and other technical videos available through the Internet and YouTube

Reading industry related publications

Completion of CPD articles in industry magazine.

3.7 Qualification studies

Industry related and recognised qualifications qualify as CPD including compliance training such as water regulations/byelaws, building regulations and gas and electrical regulations.

4.0 Monitoring CPD

mycareerpath® is an online professional development system, designed by the Engineering Council and adopted by many professional engineering institutions for use by their members. The system is mobile and tablet compatible, so records can be accessed or added to on-the-go.

The system is aligned with the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC) for EngTech, IEng, and CEng. Progress can be measured and tracked against the competence statements for the chosen registration category.

(1)    mycareerpath is designed to help individuals to plan and record any activity that contributes to professional competence. Using mycareerpath (1) puts your complete records in one place so that they can be simply and easily be passed on to your employer or to prospective clients.

Final comments:

The importance of CPD cannot be over emphasised it forms an essential element in technical and vocational education and training and their associated employment areas. It raises the profile of the subjects/disciplines and the status of the workers in these professions.  It should form part of an urgent strategy to establish a ‘licence to work’ an essential goal yet to be realised in the UK. A well-qualified and up to date employee is essential to maintain a highly productive workforce.

More information about the CIPHE and the CPD Charter can be found on their website www.ciphe.org.uk















The Importance of Continuous Professional Development (CPD)


Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is even more important now as the country begins to tackle its skills gaps and shortages and the continuing low levels of productivity in manufacturing and industrial activity. The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has recently published a timely and excellent charter on CPD.  The CIPHE have set an excellent example and lead the way for other professional bodies, employers and education and training organisations on this critically important topic.

CPD has often been identified as an essential part of lifelong learning but too often was marginalised by employers during times of financial recession and austerity when it should have been a priority.

Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is defined as: ‘the purposeful maintenance and improvement of your knowledge, skills and competence to carry out your professional role throughout your working life’. In other words CPD is any activity which enhances an individual’s professional practice and encompasses formal, Informal, course based, work based, individual and collaborative learning.

CPD has several purposes and takes account of training needs and career progression. It can also take a variety of forms including: studying technical literature; attending events such as seminars, conferences and exhibitions; viewing technical webinars/YouTube videos and attending manufacturers’ technical presentations.  In addition CPD can be supplemented by structured activities such as distance learning programmes, e-learning, preparation of papers and presentations, mentoring, involvement in CIPHE activities, or other relevant voluntary work.

Formal off-job training is only a part of CPD. Most learning actually takes place not through attending training courses, but through the work people do and the range of experiences they have.

Gaining qualifications is not enough – individuals need to be competent, and possess the necessary skills to keep up-to-date with new developments in the changing world of education and training as well as in their specialist subject.

Ø  ‘Competence’ – the ability to perform a particular activity to a prescribed level.

Ø  ‘Skill ‘– facility gained by practice or knowledge.

Background and Issues

During these uncertain times resulting from the ongoing global financial crisis many countries are having to carry out fundamental reviews of their economies in order to reconfigure and strengthen their economies and to reduce their debts and balance of payments.  This coupled with all the consequences of the rapid transitions and transformations occurring because of globalism e.g. out sourcing, such reviews are assuming top priority. The advent of robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data /information creation is transforming both society and work.  After completing the necessary reviews and reforms in order to rebalance this country’s economy the one most important element that must be addressed is the human resources involved in revenue creation i.e. the workers. Employers must recognise the importance of employee development and make a sustained and adequate investment by providing comprehensive programmes to improve their skills at all levels included specialist, general and transferable. This is why I welcome the CIPHE initiatve. Whatever strategies that are inevitably implemented one essential feature must be a total commitment to CPD. Too often lip service is paid by employers and politicians about CPD. If one is committed to improving efficiency, productivity, competiveness and economic health then employers, supported by government, must adopt a long term and sustained strategy.  Employees must be supported in a number of ways whether financially, time off to study and a sympathetic understanding and full recognition of the consequences for the employee involved in such activities. Policies must be consistent across companies particularly in the public services. There are instances where different government departments and ministries operate different policies especially in the financial support they provide to their employees. In this regard the example set by the government and professional bodies is pivotal.

One important element of an individual’s CPD programmes is the maintenance of a professional portfolio. The portfolio supports the CPD activities in a number of crucial ways including:

ü  Serves as personal record of development

ü  Supports self-evaluation of professional competence

ü  Assists in personal development planning

ü  Presents illustrations of skills and abilities

Demonstrates attainment of competences e.g. personal and business

ü  Provides invaluable support and evidence for professional reviews i.e. staff appraisals

ü  Provides a basis for discussion with key colleagues

ü  Assists in recording activities which may lead to accreditation at an institutional or individual level

Another key element in CPD and maintaining a portfolio is the development of critical self reflection as reflecting on and learning from experiences will assist individuals to become better workers. This will strengthen the need for individuals taking ownership of their learning.

I will provide the detail of the CIPHE Charter in another article on the website.

Here We Go Again!

The government has announced a new Industrial Strategy to bolster the country’s manufacturing, engineering and technology (MET sector) and a reconfigured technical education system). The key elements of the proposed technical education system include:

ü  Simplifying the range of technical and vocational qualifications currently on offer

ü  Creating an easier means of finding and applying for technical courses possibly similar to the UCAS system

ü  Creating new Institutes of Technology to deliver higher level technical education throughout the UK

ü  Encouraging people to take up Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills

ü  Increasing the number of mathematics schools across the country

ü  Ensuring universal basic numeracy

ü  Identifying and addressing sector-specific skills gaps

ü  Embedding the concept of lifelong learning

ü  Creating wider opportunities for re-training throughout a person’s career

ü  Involvement from industry and employers to shape what technical qualifications and curriculum should deliver

ü  Improving the quality of the offering for lower level technical qualifications

ü  Improving provision for higher level technical qualifications

ü  Helping students make informed choices about career paths.

As the title says we have heard this before over many decades with little or no improvement to technical education and training. Innumerable reviews, pilots, schemes and the MSC programmes/schemes over the past decades have come and gone without any real impact. Major reviews such as the Vocational Qualification Review (DeVille, April 1986), numerous proposals to reduce the number of qualifications and programmes and initiatives such as CPVE, NVQs, TVEI, GNVQs, Vocational Diplomas, Modern Apprenticeships, and Graduate Apprenticeships et al are a few examples. Over the years we have heard these worthy intentions but sadly it turned out to be empty rhetoric and as a result violated our hopes and expectations

Over the decades as this website and my other site www.techedarchive.org  highlight the continued neglect of the technical education system and FE colleges. The basic social hostility to technical/practical subjects, the second class perception of the subjects and the colleges when compared with the schools and university sectors has always been a concerning factor. The FE sector and its provision have always experienced inadequate funding which has brought about staff redundancies and closure of technical departments, or mergers and downsizing. Pressure was put on college principals to close/downsize practical based departments e.g. engineering, construction – I experienced this first hand in the 1990s. Universities also have closed science, mathematics and engineering related departments because of declining enrolments.

The country continues to decline in international surveys assessing achievement levels of science, mathematics and the OECD/PISA has recently (2017) recorded that the country is ranked 16th out of the 20 OECD countries for the proportion of people with technical qualifications. Other reports by the OECD shows the level of science and mathematical ability again continues to decrease when compared with other countries. Teacher and student numbers in schools and colleges continue to decline in science, mathematics and technical subjects. The number of students pursuing teacher training in subjects like Mathematics, Physics and Technology continues to decline and because of financial cuts many staff teaching technical subjects have resigned or taken early retirement. As a result closures of departments in science, mathematics and technical subjects also continue to be merged, downsized or closed in universities and colleges. The current regime of austerity has accelerated these declines.  

One fact that is never mentioned by the government is that these proposals to reinvent the technical education system and reinvigorate the industrial strategy will take at least a generation as training teachers and changing the negative attitudes of the population to practical and technical disciplines will take a long time. It will also require sustained long term and adequate funding – approaches this country is not renowned for – UK short termism reigns!

There are many other issues that reflect the reason why the state of technical, scientific and mathematical subjects in the educational system is in such a dire state e.g. teacher training, and yet successive governments ignore the realities of the situation. The following list highlights further problems currently associated with technical education, manufacturing and industry:

·         Science related professions have 50% job vacancies and medical related professions 10%

·         A recent survey by the Bridge Group reported:  economically, in terms of incomes, and educationally, in terms of opportunities, the UK is now the most unequal country in Europe.

·         A recent survey on the results of students undertaking work experience and visits to scientifically/manufacturing based industries highlighted the basic negative attitude to scientific and practical subjects.  Follow up research showed that the experience had little impact on the students namely only 8.7% subsequently took up further study/employment in biological subjects, 5% physics, 12% mathematics and 7.5% chemistry.

·         Productivity rates continue to decline in industry and are now one of the lowest in Europe and the rest of the developed world.

·         Skill shortages continue in many trades and professions in spite of employing immigrants – and clearly skill gaps and shortages will increase following the UK exit from the EU.

I will return to these proposals over the next few years but already fear they will mirror the previous attempts to address these critically important topics.

Short Glossary of Education and Training Terms


(Provides some simple definitions to topics covered on this website – hope it proves helpful).

Accreditation: The issue of formal recognition that bodies or institutions or the procedures used by them meet specified requirements.

Achievement/Attainment Test:  A test that measures achievement in a particular subject or occupation rather than potential.

Assessment: Appraisal or estimation of an individual’s degree of ability by whatever means (e.g. assignments, course work, interviews, practical work, written tests etc.). Assessment may be internal (carried out by a teacher o/tutor/supervisor) or external (carried out by outside agency – usually only relevant to written tests).

Awards: A general term for qualifications issued by examining or validating bodies.

Certifying Body: An organisation which issues a document formally attesting that the document holder has passed in specified assessments and/or fulfilled specified requirements.

Competence: The ability to perform a particular activity to a prescribed standard

Credit Accumulation: Arrangements which enable candidates to accumulate a specified number of credits, usually by successful completion of individual modules, to qualify for an award.

Credit Transfer: The acceptance of an award, or credit gained towards an award, as credit towards another award.

Criteria for Assessment: Predetermined lists of qualities against which a student’s work can be compared and the degree of success determined; or, lists of requirements to be covered in assessment procedures.

CPVE:  Certificate designed for young people who wish to stay on at school or college after their period of compulsory education, for whom a specific academic or vocational course is not appropriate. One year course leading to a new qualification were introduced in 1985.

Curriculum: The entire programme of learning experiences which together make up a course. Also the entire range of learning experiences provided by an institution.

Examination: One or more tests or assessment of knowledge or proficiency, involving the use of either written or oral questions and/or exercises.

Examining and Validating Bodies:

An organisation which makes awards to candidates who pass examinations which the organisation has set and marked itself too its own syllabuses is classified as an examining body. An organisation which makes awards to candidates who successfully complete an internally or externally assessed course which the organisation has approved and monitored is classified as a validating body.

Experiential Learning: Learning through experience rather than through study or formal instruction.

Level: Classification of the degree of difficulty or complexity of a course or award with reference to other courses or awards.

Moderation: Procedures to align standards of assessment between different tests papers, testing occasions, examiners, centres, etc. For example, internal assessments may be moderated by an external examiner who ascertains that the assessment standards of a group of internal examiners are consistent from candidate to candidate and comparable with those of such examiners in similar institutions elsewhere.

Module (of Learning): Separate and self-standing parts of educational or training programmes designed as a series to lead to ascertain level of qualification or attainment or as a related group from which programmes may be chosen, according to need. The term always requires definition because of the length of the module as many courses have modules with very different time requirements.

Module (of Accreditation): A self-standing unit for awarding credit within a system of qualifications. The module is defined in terms of an area of competence and the standards by which the competence is assessed.

Occupation: A group of related skills, tasks or activities which are common to a range of jobs and which are grouped together under a title for the purpose of identification and classification.

Occupational Group: A group of jobs on the same basic discipline, such as production engineering, and within which the recruitment qualifications overlap. Employees will tend to move up or across the job group by extending or developing their knowledge and skills.

Pre-Vocational Education: Education designed to give people a broad preparation and requisite knowledge for entry to the word of work generally, normally developed through study and experience of one or more broad groups of occupations. It may be offered pre-16 or post-16.

Professional Bodies: An association incorporated for the purposes of seeking standard for those who practise in a profession or occupation, of advancing knowledge related to the profession and of protecting and promoting the interests of its members. A professional body which examines sets and marks examinations to its own syllabus or approves and monitors educational institutions to carry out examinations on its behalf.

Progression: Building on existing competences either to broaden their range, to bring them up to date, or to extend them to a higher level.

Skill: Facility gained by practice or knowledge.

Standards: The agreed and recognised levels of competence-skills, knowledge, nderstanding and experience-to be achieved through education or training, or required to perform a job or range of jobs.

Syllabus: A concise written description of the subject matter of a course or examination.

Task: An element or combination of elements of work by means of which a specific result is achieved.

Training: The provision of learning experiences enabling trainees to develop specified competences.

TVEI:  Was a five year pilot scheme to stimulate the provision of technical and vocational education for the 14-18 year olds in the education system.

Validation: The process of scrutinising a proposed course and of deciding whether or not it should be approved as being of an appropriate nature and standard for the award to which it is intended to lead and, if this proves to be the case, of specifying the conditions which must be fulfilled if the course is actually to run. Validation may be ‘internal’ or ‘external’ depending on whether it is carried out by the institution which provides the course or by an outside body.

Validity: The extent to which assessment fulfils its purpose.

Vocational Education: Education designed to prepare people for work in a particular occupation or groups of occupations. It may be given at the level of further or higher education.

Work Experience: Placements of a students or trainees with a company or organisation to give direct experience of the working environment.

YTS: An MSC programme for young people which offered two-year course to 16 year old school leavers and one year programmes for 17 year school leavers; and gave opportunities for vocational training leading to recognised vocational qualifications.


Thoughts of Economics


(A reflective and hopefully thought provoking viewpoint. I need to give more thought to this issue which presents many challenges).

Whilst writing the previous article for the website I began to reflect on what economics and the implementation of the current economic models in western economies mean in the light of the massive transformations that are occurring. The increasing recognition that the current economic models and capitalism have failed surely requires an urgent and fundamental review and reform.  Many people in the past have argued that economics is an art and not a science though it is clearly related to the social sciences. As globalism evolved with the resultant national economies becoming more complex and connected the current definitions and interpretations are in need of radical reforms.

Many factors impact on economies such as volatility in oil prices and stock exchanges and the sudden and unexpected changes in the political complexion and policies in countries. The current economic theories and doctrines are increasingly seen to be inadequate in dealing with these multidimensional, variable and often contradictory factors. Recently many commentators have been highly critical of economics highlighting its failures over the past few decades and have called for fundamental reviews and reforms to the current practices. However many economists have become complacent and somewhat arrogant and do not feel any review or reform is needed. This mirrors what scientists felt of classical physics at the end of the 19th century (see later).

It might be interesting to compare economics with the evolution of science and scientific methodology. For example two distinct historical phases can be identified with physics namely Newtonian Physics (Classical Mechanics) and Relativity/Quantum Physics (Quantum Mechanics). Newtonian Physics dealt with the observable world and the universe that was then known i.e. the macro world. It depicted with a high degree of accuracy the appearance of eclipses, explained the action of tides and the behaviour of forces particularly that of gravity.

Over the centuries after its formulation further confirmation of its validity gave rise to a view that is was the ultimate explanation and represented the absolute truth. Many scientists became arrogant and believed it could explain all the phenomena in the then known world and universe. However once research began of atomic physics and investigations into the micro world this view was quickly dispelled by Albert Einstein and the founders of Quantum Physics including Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrodinger and Max Planck. Quantum Mechanics replaced Classical Mechanics for microscopic phenomena but was still able to accommodate Classical Mechanics and the macro world.

Science and scientists accept fallibility and that it is essential to learn from mistakes taking the hypotheses proposed by Karl Popper. Popper stated that negative results are more positive than positive results. Science moves forward by proving current hypotheses wrong. However many other disciplines do not accept these approaches e.g. religion, politics and  the way most of economics are currently  practiced being reluctant to recognise mistakes and as mentioned already are prone to be dogmatic.

However the major difference between the two approaches was that instead of the belief in absolute prediction and certainty, quantum mechanics gave results that were based on probability and uncertainty. Examples of this were the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the two slit paradox. The former was that there is a fundamental limit of an atomic particle and its momentum can be simultaneously known. Also there is a fundamental limit to the energy of an atomic particular when it is measured for a finite time. The product of the two uncertainties must be greater than Planck’s constant divided by 2pi. The reason for this uncertainty is that the method of measuring says the position of an atomic particle perturbs that position resulting in uncertainty of its position; in a sense it creates a cloud of uncertainty.

The two slit experiment showed the fascinating and perplexing fact that light could be both a wave and particle (photon) often referred to as wave particle duality. Light behaves as a wave when being propagated and a particle when interacting with matter. For example interference and diffraction shows light as a wave and the photoelectric effect as a particle. As a result observations and subsequent results violated  traditional expectations. So the quantum revolution created a totally different theory for physics. In many ways modern physics has become more like philosophy.

So can economics and its currently practised theories learn anything from this scientific revolution? Economists and the models they practice massively failed to predict the financial crisis of 2008 and continue to provide no meaningful view or prognosis of the current dire state of the world’s economy. Instead they continue to promulgate traditional views and theories whether these are based on Classical, Keynesian, Supply and Demand, Capitalism, Market Socialism or Laissez Faire approaches. These theories include: introducing Quantative Easing (QE); low or negative interest rates and austerity which have made the situation worse.  Many of these approaches are based on debt accumulation which will ultimately lead to even bigger problems for individual countries and the world. The message seems to be manage the situation in a misguided way but do not solve it!

So could economics develop new and more reliable models in the future by fundamentally reforming current practices? If so could economics learn anything from the scientific revolution described above that would hopefully lead to a better recognition and management of the factors that create economic crisis?  I think a starting point could be the recognition of the complexities and consequences of the impact of the numerous connected and often contradictory factors now in play globally. It would be interesting if a new set of theories could be developed writing algorithms that introduce elements of a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the adoption of more realistic views of the limitations of the current practices and doctrines in economics.

Summary – a few more observations:

>Learn from your mistakes

>Stop rationalising mistakes learn from them

>Success hinges on failure

>Read Karl Poppers work


Book references for the History of Technical and Commercial Education and Training

The following references have proved useful in writing this history of technical and commercial examinations. A far more comprehensive set of references can to be found on the book references on the chapter for the History of Technical Education. I will continue to update.

April 2017

Abbott, A. ‘Education for Industry and Commerce in England’. OUP. 1933.

Argles, M. ‘South Kensington to Robbins’. An Account of English Technical and Scientific Education since 1851. ISBN 10-0582323835. Longmans. 1964.

Armytage, W. H. G. ‘Four Hundred Years of English Education’.  ASIN 12 TYHHVY. CUP. 1965.

Beaumont, G. ‘Review of 100 NQVs and SVQs’. London. DfEE. 1995

Belcher, V. ‘ The City Parochial Foundation 1891-1991: a Trust for the Poor of London’. Scolar Press. Aldershot. 1991.

Brereton, J. L. ‘The Case for Examinations’. CUP. 1944.

Bruce, C. ‘Secondary School Examinations. Facts and Commentary’. Oxford, Peramon. 1969.

Burke, J. W. ‘Competency Based Education and Training’. ISBN 1-85000-625-1. The Falmer Press. 1990.

Butterworth, H. ‘The Inauguration of the Whitworth Scholarships’. The Vocational Aspect of Education. 2 c1970. Pages 35-39.

Cantor, L. M and Roberts, I. F. ‘Further Education Today, a Critical Review’. ISBN. 0 7100-0412 5.  RKP. 1979.

Cantor, L. M. ‘Vocational Education and Training in the Developed World: A Comparative Study.’ ISBN 0-415-02542-7. London. Taylor and Francis. London. 1989.

Capey, J. ‘GNVQ Assessment Review’. London. NCVQ, 1995.

Cardwell, D. S. L. ‘Artisan to Graduate’. ISBN 0 7190 1272-4.  Manchester University Press. 1974.

Chapman, C. R.  ‘ The Growth of British Education and Records’. Lochin Publishing, Dursley. 1991.

City and Guilds. ‘City and Guilds Reflections Past and Present’.  A. Sich. CGLI 2000.

City and Guilds. ‘City and Guilds A Short History 1878-1992’. ISBN 0 85193 010 7. CGLI .1993.

College of Preceptors. ‘Fifty Years of Progress in Education’. 1896/97.

Cronin, B. ‘Technology, Industrial Conflict and the Development of Technical Education in 19th Century England’. ISBN 0 7546 0313 X. Ashgate. 2001.

Curtis, J. ‘A Summary of TVEI’. Technical and Vocational Education Review. ED. 1991.

Dearing, R. ‘Review of Qualifications for 16-19 Year Olds’. London. SCAA. 1996

Dent, H. C. ‘Part Time Education in Great Britain’. ASIN B0010XTDYU. Turnstile Pres. 1949.

DES. ‘Ordinary and Advanced Diplomas’. London. DES. 1991.

Dobinson, C. H. ‘Technical Education for Adolescents’. University of London Press. 1951.

DoE. ‘A New Training Initiative. An Agenda for Action’. London. HMSO. 1981.

DoE. ‘Working together – Education and Training’. London HMSO. 1986.

Dore, R. ‘The Diploma Disease’. Allen Unwin. 1976.

Earnshaw, H. G. ‘The Associated Examining Board for the General Certificate of Education: Origin and History’. AEB. Aldershot. 1974.

Ferguson, R. W. and Abbott, A. ‘Day Continuation Schools’. Bourneville and Isaac Pitman and Sons. 1935.

Finegold, D and Soskice, D. ‘Failure of Training in Britain Analysis and Prescriptions’. Oxford Review of Economics. 4, 3. Autumn 1988. Pages 21-53.

Foden, F.  ‘Philip Magnus. Victorian Educational Pioneer’. ISBN 0 853 03044 8. Vallentine, Mitchell_London. 1970.

Foden, F. ‘The Examiner’. ISBN 0 907644 066. University of Leeds Studies in Continuing Education. 1989.

Foden, F. ‘The Education of Part Time Teachers in Further and Continuing Education’. ISBN 0 900 960 523. University of Leeds Studies in Continuing Education. 1992.

Foden, F, E. ‘The National Certificate’. Vocational Aspect of Secondary and FE. 3. 1951. Pages 38-46.

Gleeson, D. (Ed). ‘TVEI and Secondary Education a Cultural Appraisal’. OU. 1987.

Gordon, P. and Lawton. D. ‘Curriculum Changes in the 19th and 20th Century’. London. 1978. Pages 179-204.

Grant, A. ‘The Evils of Competitive Examinations’. Nineteenth Century’. 8 1880.

Gray, V. ‘Charles Knight. Educator, Publisher and Writer’. ISBN – 1020 7546 5219 X. Ashford. 2006.

Hartog, P. and Rhodes, E. C. ‘An Examination of Examinations’. International Institute Examinations Enquiry. Macmillian. 1935.

Hartog, P. J. ‘Examinations and their Relation to Culture and Efficiency’. 1918.

Haslegrave, H. K. ‘Report of the Committee on Technician Courses and Examinations’. London. 1969.

Hey, S. ‘The Central School Examination’. Manchester Education Committee. 1929.

Howat, G. M. D. ‘Oxford and Cambridge Examination Board 1873-1973’. OUP. 1973.

Hudson, D. and Luckhurst, K. W. ‘The Royal Society of Arts, 1754-1954’. London. John Murray. 1954.

Hutton, R. S. ‘Recollections of a Technologist’. London. Pitman. 1964.

Inkster, I. (Editor). ‘The Steam Intellect Society’. ISBN 1 85041 008 9. 1985.

Jeffery, G. B. (Ed). ‘External Examinations in Secondary Schools’. Harrop. 1958.

Jessop, G. ‘Outccomes. NVQS and the Emerging Model of Education and Training’. London. Falmer Press. 1991.

Lang, J. ‘City and Guilds of London Institute. Centenary 1878-1978’. ISBN 0 85193 007 7. CGLI 1978.

Lankester, E. B. ‘Examinations’. Universal Review. November 1888. Pages 403-413,

Latham, H. ‘On the Action of Examinations as a Means of Selection’. CUP. 1877. Pages 200+

Lauwerys, J. A. and Scanlon,D. G. (Eds). ‘The World Year Book of Education. Examinations’. 1969.

Lowndes, G. A. N. ‘The English Education System’. ISBN 10-00902245507.  Hutchinson University Library. 1960.

Lownes, G. A. N. ‘The Silent Revolution’. An Account of the Expansion of Public Education in England and Wales 1895-1965. ASIN B00161JBE. OUP. 1969.

Mackinnon, D. ‘Education in the UK, facts and figures.’  ISBN 10-0750704500. Hodder and Stoughton/OU. 1999.

MacLeod, R. (Ed). ‘Days of Judgement’. ISBN 090 5484 150. Nafferton Book. Drifield N Humberside. 1982.

Maclure, J. S. ‘Educational Documents England and Wales. 1816-1967’. ISBN 412 07960 7. Chapman and Hall. 1968.

Magnus, P. ‘Education Aims and Efforts 1880-1910’. Longmans, Green and Company. 1911.

Magnus, P. ‘Industrial Education’. Kegan Paul Trench and Company. 1888.

Mansfield, B and Matthews, D, ‘Job Competence-A Description for use in Vocational Education and Training’. Work Based Learning Project. FESC. 1985.

Millis, C. T. ‘Technical Education, Its Development and Aims’. Arnold. 1925.

Mitchell, B. R. and Deane. P. ‘Abstract of British Historical Statistics.’  ISBN 10-0521057388. CUP. 1962.

Montague, F. C. ‘Technical Education’. A Summary of the Report of the Royal Commission’. Cassell and Company. 1887.

Montgomery, R. J. ‘Examinations’. Longmans. 1965.

Montgomery, R. J. ‘A New Examination of Examinations’. London. 1978.

MSC and DES. ‘Review of Vocational Qualifications in England and Wales’. London. HMSO. 1986.

NCVQ, ‘National Vocational Qualifications. Criteria and Procedures’. NCVQ. 1988.

NCQC. ‘GNVQs – Proposals for the New Qualification’. NCVQ. 1991.

NCQV. ‘NCVQ Information Note 4: Assessment in NVQs’. London. NCVQ. Nov. 1988.

NCCQ. ‘NCVQ, BTEC, CGLI and RSA Examinations Board’. London. NCVQ. 1995.

Payne, G. L. ‘Britain’s Scientific and Technological Manpower’.  ASIN B0000CKMIX. Stanford University Press. 1960.

Peers, R. ‘Adult Education. A Comparative Study’. RKP. London. 1958.

Peters, A. J. ‘British Further Education. A Critical Study’. ISBN 10:0 080118933. Pergamon Press. 1967.

Praagh, G Van. ‘Henry Armstrong and Science Education’. ISBN 0 7195 2893 3. John Murray. 1973.

Priestly, B. ‘British Qualifications’. Kogan Page. 1977.

Richardson, W. A. ‘The Technical College’. ‘Its Organisation and Administration’. OUP. 1939.

Roach, J. ‘Public Examinations in England 1850-1900’. CUP. 1971.

Robinson, P. ‘Rhetoric and Reality:Britain’s New Vocational Qualification and its Centre for Economic Performance’. London. LSE. 1996

Roderick, G. W. and Stephen, M. D. (Eds). ‘The British Malaise. Industrial Performance Education and Training in Britain Today’. ISBN 0 905273 21 4.  Falmer Press. 1982.

Roderick, G. W. and Stephen, M. D. ‘Education and Industry in the 19th Century’. ISBN 0 582 48719 6. Longmans. 1978.

Roderick, G. W. and Stephen, M. D. ‘Scientific and Technical Education in the 19th Century England’. ISBN 0 71535777 8. David and Charles Newton Abbot. 1972.

Royal Society, ‘Beyond GCSE’. London. Royal Society. 1991.

Sadler. M. E, ‘Essays on Examinations’. 1958.

Sadler, M. E. ‘Continuation Schools in England and Elsewhere’. ‘There Place in this Educational System of an Industrial and Commerce Studies’. Manchester University Press. 1907.

Sanderson, M. ‘The Missing Stratum. Technical School Education in England’. ISBN 0 485 11442 9. The Athlone Press 1994.

Schofield, R. E. ‘The Society of Arts and the Lunar Society of Birmingham’. Journal of RoA. Cvii. Pages 513+. c 1960s.

Sharp, P. R. ‘Whisky Money and the Development of Technical and Secondary Education in the 1890s’. Journal of Educational Administration and History. 4. 1971. Pages 31-36.

SOED 52. ‘Evaluation of TVEI Extension’ Edinburgh. SOEDID 1992.

Stephens, W. R. ‘Education in Britain 1750-1914’. ISBN 0 333-60511-X. Macmillan Press Ltd. 1998.

Stern, L. ‘Evaluation of GNVQs’. London NCVQ. 1996

TA. ‘The Concept of Occupational Competence’. Sheffield. Training Agency. 1988.

Thornley, J. C. and Hastings, G. W. (Eds).  ‘Guilds of the City of London and their Liverymen’. The London and Counties Press Association. Ltd. 1911.

Valentine, C. W. ‘The Reliability of Examinations’. UoL Press. 1932.

Venables, E. ‘The Young Worker at College. A Study of a Local Tech’. Faber and Faber. 1967.

Venables, P. F. R. ‘Sandwich Courses for Technologists and Technicians’ Max Parrish. London. 1959.

Wellington, J. ‘The Work Related Curriculum’. London. Kegan Page. 1993.

Whitehead, F. ‘External Examinations Examined’. The Journal of Education. January. 1956.

Wiener, M. J. ‘ English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit 1850-1980’. ISBN 0-14-022662-1. Pelican. 1981. A excellent text.

Williams, G. ‘Recruitment to Skilled Trades’. RKP. London. 1957.

Williams, R. ‘The Long Revolution’. Penguin Book. 1961.

Wilson, J. P. ‘The Routledge Encyclopaedia of UK Education, Training and Employment.’ RKP. ISBN 978-0-415-55822-8. 2010.

Wiseman, S. (ed). ‘Examinations and English Education’. MUP. 1961.

Wood, H. T. ‘The History of the Royal Society of Arts’. Murray. 1913.

Excellent sources of information can be found on: >www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/technical-further-education.htm

> Gillard. D. ‘Education in England a brief history.’ www.educationengland.org.uk/history













The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution?          

(This piece builds on the earlier article the ‘Future of the Economy and the World of Work’ (FEWW).

The world is rapidly moving into the Fourth Industrial Revolution also called ‘Industry Four Point Zero (Industry 4.0). Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT)’. The introduction of robotics, automation, digital transfer and data exchange in the manufacturing industries is bringing about massive transitions in the work place and society in general. Work as we have known it will change dramatically transformed with robots replacing humans in many traditional industries. The fourth industrial revolution is expanding at an exponential rate instead of the previous one which was linear and this will require a totally different set of political and financial strategies and policies. Governments and society have to recognise these transformations in employment and society in general. It will require fundamental reforms and the adoption of new and radical approaches and philosophies

Germany and Japan have already established a number of influential groups looking at the impact of Industry 4.0 and are introducing systems of significant cooperation on such topics as data exchange and the digital technologies. China is also rethinking how it manages its massive manufacturing base. Recent international surveys have indicated that in the next decade or so 20% of jobs will be lost and ultimately only a third of people will be gainfully employed. This raises many fundamental questions about how people and society as a whole will react to these developments and the digital revolution and whether it will create social unrest.  A key issue is the relationship between artificial intelligence and human intelligence and what is the relationship between robots and humans? Many countries are also experiencing an aging population which also raises fundamental questions about the structure of the workforce and the need to attract workers from other nations.

As mentioned in the article FEWW we urgently need to reverse the current financial policy/philosophy of product and service trading and work which places the economy over society. The economy is currently driven by banks, other financial organisations and the 1% rich and this is now acknowledged as having massively failed. The new approach should be society over economy putting society and people in the driving seat instead of the financial and multi-international organisations. Obviously this is a very radical proposal which does not fit with current financial practices and entrenched political beliefs.

In addition nations need to move away from a linear economy to a circular economy. This will involve a totally different approach to the manufacturing process. At present it is based on making and distributing products with built in redundancy which guarantees return business and the damping of existing products without any real concern about the damage to the environment and constant depletion of the world’s finite natural resources. This other approach means that recycling will become centre stage in any future manufacturing processes. Hopefully people will also realise how important recycling and energy conservation is and colleges can play a key role in these issues. In addition the further expansion of local sourcing of products and services and vice versa is essential and  is already becoming  popular with retailers and many businesses particularly micros and S&MEs.  For example farmers markets/local produce are proving popular and increasingly active in towns and cities. This approach will keep the economy local and equally important keep the employment local.

These two approaches namely society over economy and the linear economy are now receiving attention from a number of influential economists and policy makers but sadly many others are resisting any major reforms still believing that the current model is still the only viable one.

Equally important is that private/personal debt must be addressed and significantly reduced and if possible completely eliminated. This will allow people to invest and save and this in turn will increase demand and contribute to the health of the national economy. Many people at present are spending what money they have on servicing debt and coping with the costs of living, low wages, frozen annual wage increases and the continuing erosion of working conditions e.g. zero hour contracts. The high costs of covering such items as rent and mortgages continue to dominate their budgets. Sadly the current situation is not helped by many people spending money they do not have or going into massive debt which they cannot manage. The banking business and a rampant consumer culture encourage people to go into debt. The consumer/service  society model and business activity in America and Britain represents over 70% of the economy which is unsustainable. These countries need to re-establish a manufacturing base to create a more balanced economy and increase productivity.. Many people live beyond their means and credit cards make it so easy to spend money which they do not possess. In many ways the current economy is based on increasing debt!

The obsession with property ownership in the provision of housing surely needs to be rethought particularly in Britain. The economy is still based on creating debt as governments and many policy makers seem to imagine that the present financial crisis can be resolved by creating even more debt through such strategies as quantitative easing (QA) and negative interest rates. Britain has a government debt of 90% of GDP and this does not include personal, corporate and pension debts which are truly massive and this will create massive problems even if the country exists from the EU. The recent statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicates this will be further increased over the next few years.  Other EU countries have comparable government debts e.g. France 97% and other nations in excess of 100%! The future looks very bleak for many EU countries and in particular for Britain which is sleepwalking to financial disaster.

If the economy were to be driven by society and its members many of the current problems would be reduced. As the nature of work is transformed by robots, the new technologies and the consequences of the global economy, developed nations need to urgently review and reform the way they manage employment and the economy. Millions of jobs across the world will be replaced increasingly by robots and other forms of automation. Governments must therefore have a clear vision and policy on the national economy and the future nature of work and how this impacts on workers, citizens and the education and training systems. Previous industrial revolutions have created social unrest e.g. the Luddite movement in England during the first industrial revolution. However this one will be global and its impact will be different depending on the degree to which they are involved with the industries that will be transformed.

An example of the future impact of robots and automation is on male employment in America. At present the largest percentage of American male employment is in driving e.g. lorries, public and private transport etc. These jobs will be ultimately replaced by computer driven vehicles already being piloted across many parts of the world. America is rapidly moving to the introduction of computer driven vehicles as soon as 2020 and other countries are following this development. This raises the question of what jobs will be available for these millions of males as 34 other countries have large numbers of male drivers.  Obviously this is just one example of the impact of automation and robotic technologies. One can already see the impact of the introduction of robots and automation in many industries including manufacturing and service based industries.

When the consequences of these digital revolutions impact on society and the majority of people are unemployed how will they financially survive? One possibility is the introduction of Universal Benefit Income (UBI) replacing existing financial benefit systems and will provide people with a basic living amount of financial support. It will replace the traditional approach of welfare benefits. Radical reforms are now needed particularly for the developed nations like America, Britain and the EU and policy makers and people need to radically change the way they live their lives in a future full of uncertainties. Much has happened since I wrote FEWW on the issue of UBI particularly in Germany, Finland and Japan. Switzerland recently held a referendum on UBI and voted 77% against its introduction but since it has become clear the majority of people were ill informed about the initiative and voiced concerns how it would be funded. Germany on the other hand is confident that it can revise tax rates and reconfigure the reallocation of tax revenues to provide approximately 800 Euros per month for each person. Finland has already introduced pilot schemes of UBI along with other countries so it could become a reality within the next few years.

Clearly there is an urgent need to review present practices and priorities in technical and training systems: how they are managed and fundamental reforms worked on in response to these issues. Germany has managed to maintain its manufacturing base in stark contrast to Britain and America. Germany has a long established high quality apprenticeship programmes and an excellent technical and vocational education and training system properly supported and resourced. In addition Germany has introduced appropriate employment protection rules which are aligned with the technical and vocation training programmes giving workers a greater degree of protection.

I hope Further Education Colleges will be involved with reforms that will be so essential in addressing these massive transformations.  They will hopefully continue to play a part in preparing people for work however uncertain what that will mean.

The Importance of Micro, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.


A definition of micro and SMEs.

Micros and SMEs defined as follows – micros: 1-9 employees, Small: 10-49 employees and Medium: 50-249 employees.

I include sole operators in the definition of micros.

The key to prosperity.

The importance of micro and SMEs cannot be over emphasised. They are central to the country’s economy and in the future will play an increasingly strategic role in rebuilding and rebalancing the economy. They also could be a much greater player in creating high quality apprenticeships.

The government seems to recognise the importance of apprenticeships and is promoting them as playing a central role in addressing and solving the current skills gaps/shortages and the high levels of youth unemployment. The government also seem to highlight the importance of micros and SMEs but the reality is very different. In spite of statements by successive governments very little has been done to support them. These enterprises are trying to survive in the current hostile financial and competitive market and urgently require long term and meaningful support from the government and not just sound bites, empty rhetoric and tokenistic gestures. To date innumerable initiatives and campaigns extolling the importance of micros and SMEs have come and gone without any lasting impact or improvement. In addition successive governments have launched a number of glossy marketing campaigns extolling the virtues of SMEs and apprenticeships which again have had little positive outcome.

We wait with great anticipation following the appointment of a new Minister for small enterprises in the current government noting she has experience in such enterprises. In addition to this appointment the government has announced “a new industrial strategy” but we have heard this many times before from previous governments with no lasting positive impact.

Overall there have been very few politicians or their advisors who have been involved directly or indirectly in such enterprises and as a result their knowledge and appreciation of such industries is minimal. History also shows that political parties are more supportive towards and involved with the larger and multinationals company’s.

A good example of this indifference is the current development of apprenticeships. Micros and SMEs have to confront a number of challenges when getting involved with apprenticeships many of which could be removed with government support. Factors such as constraints of time, human and financial resources and the poor availability of high quality of broad band on which many micros and SMEs depend. These elements and others make it difficult for them to get involved with apprenticeships and there must be a greater recognition and positive action by the government in recognition of their importance and the strategic role that they could play. Long term financial support is urgently required by from government coupled with a significant reduction in administrative burdens that are imposed on small businesses.

Equally important, the micros and SMEs need to improve their profile by creating a single voice to articulate and hence lobby their role and importance to the national economy and the emerging apprenticeship programmes. This is even more pressing following the EU vote and the Micros and SMEs must be involved and play a significant role in influencing the negotiation of operating terms with the EU if this country is to leave the Union.

Currently the take up of apprenticeships in Micros and SME’s is low and could be much higher if more support is given to them. The last two governments were far more supportive of the larger enterprises like IBM, British Gas, Royal Royce and Sky in developing apprenticeships; it is time to change the emphasis.

Plumbing and heating engineering is a good example of a strategically important profession which has approximately 100,000 SMEs with 60/70% falling within the micro’s definition. This trade would greatly benefit from high quality apprenticeships that would greatly help the current skills gaps and shortages in the profession. Similar problems exist with other strategically important technical and practical occupations.


  • In order to support Micros and SMEs administrative burdens such inspections, planning and procurement and other bureaucrat procedures must be significantly reduced or removed altogether.
  • Improve the broadband coverage across the country and its strength. Currently Britain is very low on international tables for these essential services and technologies and in spite being the 5th in terms of global wealth it is 54th in terms of coverage, capacity and 4G ratings. It will take a long time to increase the ratings for ITC. SMEs especially need greater coverage, greater capacity and 4G technologies.
  • They must play a significant role in the proposed new industrial strategy recently announced by the government and work closely with the new Minister and her Ministry.
  • Establish systems to enable them to access finance more easily from banks and other financial organisations.
  • The introduction of financial incentives to increase research and development within Micros and SMEs.
  • Assist micros and SMEs to develop and improve their ITC skills*
  • Introduction of more favourable tax regimes and business rates coupled with a recognition and greater appreciation of the challenges confronting Micros and SMEs.
  • Government to review the level of corporation tax imposed on micros and small enterprises
  • Support them to massively expand apprenticeship programmes by reducing bureaucratic procedures and financial levies that are imposed on them.
  • The enterprises must create a single voice to raise their profile and lobby outside bodies including the government and EU.
  • Micros and SMEs must introduce mechanisms to improve networking and working relationships with other key organisations such as colleges, professional bodies and qualification awarding organisations.

A recent survey showed that the majority of micro/small enter