Watching a recent BBC News feature on the World Skills Final in Brazil, I was fascinated in this "Olympics for useful stuff".
Youngsters compete in practical skills such as bricklaying, plastering, plumbing, helicopter maintenance and err, beauty therapy. All good stuff and jobs that need to be done for a functioning country.
Needless to say that while the American team met the President, ours went to a reception hosted by the minister for apprenticeships. No, I've no idea who that is either. I expect that had to wear a big badge so anyone knew who they were.
It's a British problem apparently. Other countries train people in practical stuff. We prefer to produce lawyers and media studies graduates. In the Guardian, Deborah Orr can describe "the deep, dark, scary abyss that is life without a degree" without thinking this is odd. After all, in the meeja, practical skills are to be laughed at aren't they? Fans of Top Gear will have noticed James May being the butt of jokes for understanding how things work while the target audience want to be Clarkson who tries to mend things with a hammer.
You have to wonder who these people call when the tap stops working. And how badly they treat the person who turns up to fix it - after all they are mere rubbish who didn't have a proper education. Good job most of these are so well paid, they can afford the rightly massive bill presented at the end, even if it will be met with, "How much? It takes me nearly 500 words in my column to earn that!".
Which brings me to model railways. The hobby is gradually de-skilling. In the same way that most of the Top Gear audience only open a bonnet to admire the engine without knowing what any of it does, the move for modellers is towards buying in services.
Want your model chipped? Buy it in. Light and sound fitted? Buy it in. Weathered? Buy it in. Coal in the tender? You can pay someone to do that.
I worry about this. The only consolation is that when the oil runs out, the people who have skills will be king. If you remember the Golgafrincham's in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, they disposed of the useless chunk of the population who "landed" on Earth and started making documentaries about themselves and worrying more about the colour the wheel should be rather than its shape.
Douglas Adams had a point.
To prove it, despite what the idiot Farrage tries to say, evil foreign bricklayers aren't stealing good, honest, British jobs. If you are a brickie, you've more work than you can handle. We have to import evil foreign workers because we don't train enough ourselves.
Mind you, when careers advice is given by people who never left school, mine was, do A levels, go to Uni and then become a teacher from someone who couldn't understand why anyone wouldn't want exactly the same career trajectory she had, who is going to sell the idea of practical work?