Skills revival a daunting task

IF young people are inspired by the Prince of Wales's band of celebrities (page 3) to become builders, plumbers, florists and fish fryers, what will they find at work? According to David Sherlock, chief inspector for adult training, they will get uninspiring tuition and minimal education from ill-prepared trainers (see page 25).

Prince Charles was shocked to find the royal palaces redecorated by Australian, not British, workers. He should not be. Britain has farmed out dirty jobs to migrant workers for decades. That is one reason why training at home is poor.

Today, six out of 10 work-based schemes need reinspection because they fail too many trainees. It is easy to blame school standards, as the Institute of Directors did last week. More credible vocational options ought to motivate students to higher attainment in numeracy and literacy.

What Prince Charles and David Sherlock have identified is the extent of the "lifelong learning" problem. Industry itself does not do enough to celebrate or reward skills. So is it surprising that these are seen as second rate and are ignored or squeezed out of the school curriculum?

Meanwhile, Bob the Builder and Penny the Plumber get a raw deal at work where key communication, teamwork and planning skills for promotion and effective self-employment are tacked on to training as an afterthought. Today's pupils see the duff deals their brothers and sisters get and shun the trades. Ironically, by doing so, many are sowing the seeds of their own disaffection and unemployment.

This week, the Learning and Skills Council launched a multi-million-pound TV campaign to attract school-leavers to modern apprenticeships. Laudable though this is, Britain needs more than TV campaigns. Nor will celebrity efforts have a long shelf life without wider investment.

Estelle Morris has started the 14-to-19 curriculum reforms to stop vocational routes being seen as the last resort for low-achievers. But the problem, as inspectors show, goes well beyond 19.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you