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FErret

I'll drink to that

With youth unemployment high, apprenticeships are in such demand that it's almost a cliche to compare the ratio of applications to places with that of elite universities - with apprenticeships coming out as the tougher prospect.

So congratulations to New Zealander Joe Gray, who has devised a novel incentive for employers. FErret speaks, of course, of that fount of civilisation: beer. The 28-year-old from Wanganui on North Island has, for the past month, been advertising his offer of a dozen beers a week for a year for any employer who will give him an apprenticeship.

He estimates that the deal will cost him about NZ$1,200 (about #163;650) - or less if the boss doesn't mind the supermarket brand. This means that his incentive scheme is just under half the official government bribe on offer to reluctant employers in England, but it is considerably more refreshing.

Having previously completed a print apprenticeship with a 100 per cent record, before redundancy prompted him to seek a career change, Mr Gray promises that he will "work hard and learn fast". Then again, his employer may not care.

Fighting for the right to not be educated

Provision of education for adults in prison is seen as a vital step in rehabilitation - perhaps the most important one.

But one group of prisoners in Ohio, US, has won the right to not be educated. The Amish men were convicted of hate crimes after forcibly cutting the hair and beards of other members of their community, intending to shame them for perceived religious failings.

Since the Amish don't usually pursue education beyond the 8th grade (ages 13-14), lawyers for 13 of the 16 men argued that the requirement that they study for a high school equivalency certificate was a violation of their first amendment rights.

FErret is no constitutional scholar, but he does recall that the first amendment also guarantees religious freedom, including the freedom not to be attacked if someone else doesn't think you're doing it right. Sadly, Ohio's curriculum deals with the Bill of Rights in the 9th grade, so how could they have known?

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