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Gaps in crafts

I find the comments (TES, August 18) by John Troth, chairman of the North-East Wales Training and Enterprise Council, rather puzzling.

There appears to be a rather naive view by some TECs and trainers that learning in the workplace is some sort of panacea. It is not.

Do they really understand the nature of our industries? I contend that unless a particular company has a rigorous training plan, together with a wide variety of work experience opportunities, then, yes, full-time education and simulated training is better. This is no conspiracy, but simply providing what is best for our future crafts people and technicians.

For example, in the construction industry, 96 per cent of companies employ fewer than 25 people, and about 40 per cent of the craft workforce are self- employed sole traders.

There is little opportunity for these craft-business people to provide a breadth of training; it is likely that they will specialise in fairly narrow aspects of work. Most companies will therefore not be able to provide the range of activities and situations for national vocational qualification assessments.

As the Institute of Manpower Studies Report 228 stated in 1992: "Much emphasis has been placed on workplace assessment for technical and economic reasons. In practice it is unlikely that this will occur for a number of reasons related to feasibility, costs and reliability."

The full-time route that John Troth condemns as a conspiracy by academics does in fact provide broad-based education and training, often in partnership with industry and with simulated work situations. These provide a wide range of assessment situations that could not normally be obtained in "industry". The sole traders and smaller companies are thus able to recruit people from full-time vocational courses with broad-based skills most of whom are immediately productive.

DAVID CORMICAN Deputy director (Curriculum and staff development) North West Institute of Further and Higher Education Strand Road Londonderry

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