A taste of life on the factory floor

21st March 1997 at 00:00
The first stage of a unique project giving teachers an insight into how better to prepare their pupils for the Skillseekers programme ended this week.

Three teachers went through the induction course that clothing manufacturer Jaeger runs for its trainees, who are working their way towards achieving vocational qualifications at Jaeger's factory in Kilmarnock.

Eventually, 12 teachers from North, East and South Ayrshire secondary schools will take part in the course.

The Ayrshire Education Business Partnership, a collaboration between Enterprise Ayrshire and the three Ayrshire councils, is running the project as part of its teacher placement programme.

Teachers have worked alongside managers before, but this is the first time that they have experienced, at first hand, what their pupils will go through when they join a company's training programme.

The induction course was started last September after Jaeger management found that many school-leavers knew little of what was expected of them when they entered the workforce.

Those who make it past the interview stage take part in three two-hour workshops which explain the importance of team working and how to relate to their peers and managers, for example by not displaying negative body language.

One of the teachers who completed the induction course, Sandra Louden, from Grange Academy in Kilmarnock, believes that a factory can be disorienting for a recent school-leaver. She will now start work on developing a short course, based on Jaeger's, for pupils in their final term of fourth year, in order to prepare them more fully for the workplace when they leave school.

"Jaeger is a company that has a commitment to training and they are prepared to finance people right up to degree level," she said.

"We want to prepare people so that they can take responsibility for their future."

Sandra Carnegie, training manager at the Jaeger plant, hopes that some of the "Dickensian" misconceptions that teachers might have about the factory will be dispelled when they see the level of training that is required to make high-quality products.

The company pays a full wage to its Skillseekers trainees - Pounds 89 when they enter and rising to Pounds 117 when they achieve VQ level 2.

A past criticism of Skillseekers has been the programme's lack of financial incentive and preparatory work to keep trainees motivated and to help them to prepare for their Scottish VQ.

Ms Carnegie says that Jaeger's training strategy seeks to combine the two.

In return, however, the company expects full commitment from the trainees in areas such as quality control and team-working.

She says that school-leavers often do not seem to appreciate that turning up 10 minutes late can disrupt the whole production line and lead to resentment from other workers.

"Sometimes it's simple things - like tutting when they are asked to do something - that have to be addressed," said Ms Carnegie.

"They have to appreciate that I am not being unreasonable when I ask them to come in on time in the morning.

"I'm not going to give them a note to take home to their parents, but they're going to lose their job in the long run."

Ms Carnegie maintains that Skillseekers are often not given the help to adjust their attitudes and that many become disenchanted by the poor treatment which ensues.

"I've got girls coming to me who are on their second or third Skillseekers' place," she said.

The AEBP is using the Jaeger scheme to pilot further involvement of teachers in training.

According to Liz Campbell, project officer of the teacher placement programme, it is hoped that teachers will be able to use their knowledge when implementing the Higher Still reforms.

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