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Second chance study gets bad press

Newspapers in Europe present vocational education and training stories overwhelmingly in terms of "non-academic", "compensatory" and "second chance" education for young people "at risk" and adults who have failed.

The negative picture emerges from a survey by The TES of 350 press reports in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK - carried out for the European Training Foundation conference.

Vocational education is also most often cited in the popular press when politicians castigate Government for economic shortages and the failure to improve skills, or when warning that a deluge of migrant workers will take our skilled jobs (who, incidentally, once they arrive are no longer skilled workers but dole scroungers).

Calls for increases in funding get very short shrift. Problems are either presented as being as a result of earlier under-investment or investment is described as being "too little too late".

Often, pet public fears are intertwined in the same story such as the following in the Daily Mail: "University applications in Scotland have soared almost 5 per cent this year, triggering fears of a shortage of trades skills. Half of the country's under-21s already enter higher education forcing firms to hire foreign workers for plumbing and electrical jobs."

This report followed earlier reports in the tabloids on the theme "Get rich quick - retrain as a plumber" suggesting that newly-trained you would earn pound;50,000 a year.

Alongside this were stories such as: "Britain is set for an influx of 200,000 immigrants from former Soviet Bloc countries over the next five years. The expected surge when our borders are opened to citizens of 10 Eastern European countries next May is much higher than the Government has admitted..."

There is a media image in all the countries surveyed of a political war over the skills crisis, while overpaid plumbers rip off customers with shoddy work.

Meanwhile, governments open the floodgates to immigrants to do their worst.

The pressure on politicians is for a "crackdown", not for investment.

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