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Minister calls on young to take lead

YOUNG people will be offered the chance to act as advisers on the new Connexions advice and guidance service, Ivan Lewis, minister for 14 to 19-year-olds, told FE Focus this week, in his first interview with the press since his appointment.

But he denied suggestions, from a Government advisory group's labour force analysis, that training for the role could be diluted.

The analysis suggested that the Government will need at least 13,000 extra advisers to meet the range of initiatives, such as Connexions, over the next four years. It recommended slowing down the introduction of such services and a review of training needs.

The recruitment challenge was to find advisers who could relate to the young, said Mr Lewis.

"Amongst the advisers, we need a range of people from all ages and backgrounds. The idea of allowing young people to be advisers is attractive," he said.

Mr Lewis is himself a role model for the idea he espouses. Having left school after O-levels 20 years ago and returning later for A-levels, he was active in voluntary work at 14 and was running a community care group he had created by the age of 19.

Properly organised on-the-job training allowed him to acquire he skills he needed to handle the complex administration and volunteer training, without the need for lengthy study at college or university.

But there was a more fundamental reason why young people should take the lead and become active in organisations such as Connexions, he said. "We have all of us, press and politicians, to address the problems of young people becoming disconnected from the democratic process."

The emphasis would still be on the recruitment of professionals for the main jobs. "We want people with a broad variety of skills, from teaching and other professions, to develop an exciting range of options for young people."

Connexions was part of a range of initiatives to help ensure that all young people left school and college with a good balance of qualifications and experiences to become well-rounded citizens, he said.

"This means consulting and involving not only those who work with young people but also the young people themselves."

Men at the ministry, 35

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