Arms and Careers at Bristol Uni
Thursday October 14, 2010 14:23 by nickleberry jandamarra at riseup dot net
Die-in at BAe stall (courtesy Tristan Martin)
I spent a fairly depressing couple of hours yesterday inside, and out the front of, Bristol Uni's Engineering & IT Careers Fair. A very well attended event - there must have been more than a thousand students. Some 53 employers attended. So far, so harmless.
The problem was that an incredible number of these employers are involved in the "defence industry". A euphemism for people who build machines to kill and main human beings. In particular we had....
... Thales, QinetiQ, Atkins, GCHQ, Tessella, the Defence Engineering and Science Group, Babcock, Rolls Royce, the Royal Navy, Agusta Westland, BAe Systems, and the Atomic Weapons Agency...
All of the stalls were bright and shiny - I have a pile of glossies that were being given out to all and sundry - and were manned by young, hip characters speaking the language of de yoof. Perhaps I'm getting too old and cynical, but the students seemed to be lapping it up eyes wide, brains unplugged. The great undead seeking a job.
Nice jobs too. Good conditions on very attractive "graduate programmes". Starting salaries in the region of 25K with all the perks, travel, opportunity for promotion etc etc. It's an easy sell.
For my part, I gave out a few leaflets I'd drawn up suggesting that people THINK before they sleepwalk into one of these jobs. I was very happy to be joined after an hour or so by a bunch of students thinking along similar lines.
They had placards focusing on the presence of BAe, and at their particularly hideous reputation in matters of corruption, graft, and violence. They also staged a rather satisfying "die-in" next to BAe's stand. More power to them.
A little background
First some cause for hope: according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, arms companies have been struggling to recruit enough graduates to their dirty game. They quote Dick Olver, the Chairman of BAE, as saying, "Without action , the UK's widening skills gap will have become an irreversible gulf". Fucking nice one!!
On the downside, I've also looked into possibilities around pressuring Bristol Uni to stop these guys coming on campus. It turns out that the Careers Fairs pretty much fund the entire Bristol University Careers Service. Central university funding for this service has pretty much frozen since the 1980's. The ever-widening gap between central funds, and required funds, is filled by the hefty fees these companies pay to attend these fairs.
Which says two things: (1) those companies really want to be there! If they're paying through the nose, they must NEED to be there. Which suggests that this is a weak point where we could hit them. (2) On the downside, the Careers Service simply can't afford for them NOT to be there. The big companies have the big cash, simple as that.
The way ahead
It's a long and winding road, but maybe one day we'll get there. To a world without BAe Systems and their ilk. There are plenty of people in Bristol doing good stuff agains the arms trade - while I was at the careers fair, a lot of good people were fighting the good fight in Brighton:
If you're in Bristol and want to act against the arms fair, get in touch, or check out some of the splendid groups below:
We'll stop 'em yet.