Friday, 22 May 2009

Skills for the Future (wherever it is) - further memo to Andy Burnham (or now Ben Bradshaw)

'So then, what are you doing at the moment, my friend?' '

'Oh, I'm looking after the lighting and IT systems on the stage set bus in the musical of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at The Palace, London, and commuting between York and Kings Cross'.

This exchange took place on a train on Tuesday. Not a conversation that had ever happened before. My friend's careers teacher didn't have a brochure on becoming carer to Priscilla's bus. Life in the creative industries can take us to unexpected places irrespective of what formal qualifications say we should be doing.

You see, training to a very exacting specification is required for brain surgery and for the piloting of jet airliners. On the job innovation for these people is not usually successful.

But for those of us that exist in the fold that encompasses business, technology, communication and entertainment, our prime skill is the ability to re-skill, to tinker and make it up as we go along.

We know now that the world did not end with the recession. We will not return soon to a simple life. We can pretty well bet the farm on the unusual and unexpected to be an even greater part of the inter-connected culture of the future. So how do we educate and prepare people for challenges we can not conceive of ? How can we help make and stretch minds that are more capable, that are more creative, that have an ability to think across categories and boundaries?

What can people learn that allows them to become flexible, innovative and adaptable? If by 'creative jobs' we mean brilliant technicians, then train away. If we mean creating innovative new stuff we have never thought of before and can't yet imagine...

Well, maybe we have to add to the vocational the disciplines of mathematics, physics, English, about Latin? Stretch the mind, understand structure, and let us learn (and invent) the rest in the playground.

(with apologies to non Anglophone nations) (and apparently Priscilla and the whole of the West End is doing v nicely, thank you)

And we have a picture of the set itself, credit pic of bus by Jeff Busby, for full details go to

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