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Extended work placements in jeopardy

THE POTENTIAL for schools to place reluctant learners on extended work placements could be in jeopardy because of a decision made last year by crisis-hit Scottish Enterprise to prioritise certain industries for training.

Dogged last year by accusations of a massive overspend, the organisation has opted to concentrate funding on areas identified as critical to Scotland's long-term economic success, such as tourism, financial services, energy and electronic markets, life sciences, chemicals, forest industries and shipbuildingmarine. This has meant fewer new starts for other professions such as hairdressing, beauty, gardening, retail, administration and customer services.

Even though Scottish Enterprise is adamant funding has not been cut, in 2006-07 the hairdressing industry was allocated funding for 808 Skillseeker places, down from 1,494 in the previous year.

Yet in hairdressing - like many of these other professions which can offer hope to those in the Neet group - these small businesses rely on government support to subsidise training. It takes two years to train a hairdresser and, during that time, they are a cost to the salon, not a contributor. It is also a big investment to spend on a 16-year-old who might decide after six months to change careers.

"If a business did not offer National or Scottish VQs, I would be very reluctant to set up an extended work placement with them," says Iain Hutchison, PT of guidance at Liberton High in Edinburgh. "They need to guarantee that, should a placement be converted into employment, the pupil will have access to recognised training."

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