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Get rid of amateur training approach

What is the real objective behind the Department for Education and Employment's proposal to introduce work experience for 14-year-olds? If it is to stop them being bored, I doubt it will succeed. Some work experience can be stimulating, but much is boring and repetitive.

Is it to enable young people to acquire basic skills of literacy, numeracy and information technology skills which schools allegedly fail on? Well, it seems unlikely that sitting with "Nellie" for two-days-a-week is going to achieve that objective.

Work experience can be a valuable addition to a planned curriculum of vocational training post-16, but this is difficult to achieve unless there is a full commitment and involvement of employers, such as we see in the German "dual system".

If we are ever to regain our status as an industrial power, we must rid ourselves of this "amateur" approach to training. For years, industrialists and educationists have viewed each other with suspicion, and continued talk by the Secretary of State of the "real world of work" does not help. Neither does the old platitude of exhorting industry and education to work together.

What we need is a government that is not afraid to say in the days of a free market economy that some planning of post-16 education and training is necessary where national standards are set for every occupation.

At the same time, some fresh thinking is needed on how a diminishing number of jobs can be spread among an increasing number of 16-year-olds. This is perhaps the major reason for boredom in the last couple of years of school - the prospect of unemployment at the end.

L A BOWEN

8 Hutton Close Westbury Bristol

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