I suppose we've all heard the reports about skills shortages, usually reduced to the level of "try getting a plumber at the weekend".
But it's certainly true that, with the decline in manufacturing industry in the 1970s, a lot of very good craftsmen who had taught apprentices on day release in the technical colleges for years were forced back into industry because of the lack of students for them to teach, leaving a great void in vocational training that still bedevils us today.
Of course, vocational skills is not the only thing we mean when we speak of "skills shortages".
Employers complain not just about the lack of reading and writing ability and inability to take a simple telephone message, but also a lack of even more basic abilities such as good timekeeping, and willingness to take orders and directions, which makes many youngsters virtually unemployable.
So, what has gone wrong in schools, that they turn out such unpromising material?
It can all be traced back to the drive to make schools more "child centred," which meant trying to make the children "happy" and schools "fun places to be," so much so that teachers stopped insisting on the very skills that would serve children when it came to getting and holding down a job.
Indeed, one might well argue that a lot has been done to give children the idea that what goes on in school isn't serious at all, nor is it important to life afterwards, so one might just as well miss it altogether.
Take punctuality, for example.
In my day, to be late for school, however far away from the school you lived, was a serious breach of discipline and was punished.
Now, some children appear to get to school when it pleases them: some children are habitually late for school, late for lessons, and bunk off after registration because they are "bored".
The fact that so many teachers also have similar difficulties in getting to school on time or turning up for lessons on time - arriving clutching a mug of coffee which they take into the classroom - helps to foster the idea in the children that good timekeeping doesn't matter.
How many employers complain that new employees turn up for the first couple of days on time and then, when it dawns on them that this is required every day, don't turn up again?
Then we have teachers who set deadlines for work to be given in but have no intention of refusing to accept work offered after this date (for fear that they should jeopardise the chances of a GCSE student who would fail if given a zero score for a late piece of work and thus put at risk the school's position in the league tables).
The children know this, of course, and therefore hand in work when and if they like, infuriating those children who play by the rules and then find the lazy given an extra fortnight to finish a piece that they've worked hard to finish on time.
What about teachers who take work in and neglect to mark it and give it back for ages, or those who lose their pupils' course work folders?
What message does that give to children about professional behaviour in the work place? School, it says, isn't serious and we shouldn't bother too much about it.
What about those "fun palace" teachers who are unnecessarily "matey" with the pupils, calling them by nicknames, talking in the latest playground slang, dressing scruffily, and accepting from the pupils an over-familiarity bordering upon insolence, which invariably leads to disruption and a breakdown of discipline.
"We can do as we like," is the message, "the bosses can't do anything."
Then we have the teachers who fill the heads of lazy, unproductive pupils with the idea that the world owes them a good, fulfilling job, regardless of how little effort they put in or how few qualifications they can get.
What do we expect employers to do with self-obsessed, arrogant, stupid work-experience children who leave after a day because "I'm not sweeping up hair" (in a hairsalon), or who bleat about being used as "cheap labour" when they haven't any skills to offer any employer?
These days "lack of skills" is all too often a euphemism for "lack of work ethic and willingness to learn," and we can thank schools to a great extent.