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Motorola shadow over school to work review

The Scottish Executive confirmed this week that its review of the way schools prepare pupils for working life will get under way this summer and will be completed by the end of the year.

The announcement, which was first flagged up in January when the Executive launched its proposals for the careers service shake-up, came ironically on the day after Motorola, the telecommunications multinational, said it was shutting its Bathgate plant in West Lothian with the loss of 3,100 jobs.

Even more ironically, Motorola established a special awards scheme last year to encourage excellence by schools in educating young people for work and enterprise. The first awards to 14 schools were made last September. The company promised it had expansionist plans at that time and said its growth "will only be sustained by a continuous supply of skilled people and the source of that supply lies in our schools".

The education for work review will be undertaken by a specialist group drawn from education, the business world and the enterprise networks. As an earnest of the importance the Executive attaches to the education for work agenda, the group will be chaired by Nicol Stephen, Deputy Education Minister and formerly junior lifelong lerning minister.

Meanwhile the impact of the Motorola decision on education in West Lothian was being quantified this week. On the basis of "an ill wind" benefiting somebody, West Lothian College anticipates a boost in business, following a major retraining effort to help Motorola employees find other jobs which was announced on Wednesday by Wendy Alexander, Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister, as part of a pound;10 million rescue package.

"We are standing ready and see ourselves as part of the solution," Sue Pinder, the college's principal-designate, said. A key role might be played by the Scottish Advanced Manufacturing Centre in Livingston, run jointly by West Lothian College and Napier University, which aims to provide industry with the advanced skills widely acknowledged to be necessary for the high-value jobs of the future.

Motorola offers 15 modern apprenticeships to school-leavers at present. One consequence of the closure, according to Lynn Aitchison, who works for the careers service in West Lothian, is that more youngsters might stay on at school to acquire better qualifications, with perhaps more also entering FE.

But she added: "We are waiting to see what the knock-on effects will be."

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