Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Barcelona & the benefits of apprenticeships

IN the 1960s there was a wave of snowball strikes by engineering apprentices that was started in the North: in Glasgow in Scotland. Comedian Billy Connolly was on the strike committee up there but Alex Ferguson, now manager of Manchester United, figured as one of the leaders in that long ago apprentice dispute of May 1960 that quickly spread South to Manchester, the Midlands and even London. These apprentice strikes were for increased pay relative to craftsmen, against the use of apprentices as cheap labour and for better education in their respective trade.

Now, at a time when the apprenticeship has been diminished in the North of England and elsewhere as a system since the 1980s, the Lex column (Saturday May 28th/Sunday May 29th 2011) in the Financial Times of all places has made a persuasive argument on its behalf. Entitled 'Football fever: apprentices become masters' Lex wrote last Saturday:

'Football is like German engineering: one of the few industries to hire and nurture apprentices. Every so often, the custom produces pure gold: the latest piece of classic German technology, or a great football team.

'No club epitomises this nurturing of talent like Barcelona, who play Manchester United - England's once and hopeful future exemplar - in the Uefa Champions League final on Saturday. The club will field match winners who cost only what it takes to educate, train and employ them. Much of the side won the World Cup for Spain last year.

'As football looks to introduce financial fair play rules, its bosses, owners fans and players know that debt-fuelled transfers, with their hidden costs and inflated prices, are untenable. As Barcelona and German engineers have proved, it is talent, not money, that matters.'

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