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City tailors disadvantaged young to needs of industry


Amsterdam is to reintroduce the concept of schools geared to grooming employees for specific local industries.

The move is aimed at tackling the problems of Zuid-Oost, the capital's south-eastern suburb, which is a ghetto for ethnic minorities and has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country, due partly to a poorly educated workforce.

The city council plans to set up a school in September to prepare pupils for jobs in the area's burgeoning entertainment industry and offices. Companies such as McDonald's, IKEA, Palth (cinemas) and MOJO (concert promotion) will sponsor the school and help tailor the curriculum.

"Twenty-five years ago large Dutch companies such as Fokker and Storch had their own schools. We are using the same idea but in a new form to meet the changing needs of the services industry," said Ada Somsen, a spokeswoman for the project.

Zuid-Oost has become the main location for office parks and is being developed into an entertainment and leisure centre, with mega cinemas, shopping boulevards and concert halls planned. It is already the location of the city's state-of-the-art sports stadium, the Arena.

Employers have had difficulty finding staff with the "representational" skills the service industry now demands, and the area is expected to create thousands of such jobs over the next few years.

A contributory factor is that many of the Netherlands' existing technical schools serve older professions. The service industry is relatively new and its demands go beyond the usual hotel and catering trade courses, said Ada Somsen. Even cleaners have to represent their company these days.

Pupils aged 12 to 14 will be offered a place at the school with the virtual guarantee of a job by the time they are 16, she added. The training will last two years. Companies say the earlier a trainee learns the trade the better the result.

The new venture will be linked to three existing secondary schools in the area, and its pupils will receive a normal secondary education alongside their special training. Candidates will probably have to face an eight-hour school day rather than the present six.

In September some 30 to 60 pupils are due to start at the school, which will be located in the middle of the entertainment area. The council is currently negotiating financing, with the state supplying the bulk of the funding. No sum was disclosed.

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