From Blacksmith to Brazilians

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Apprentices' sorcerer Jill Parkin gazes into her crystal ball to conjure up a vision of the future for LSC's apprenticeships

Sea-fishing apprentice, eh? All those rolling waves and silvery shoals leaping into your nets; a chance to wear a Paddington bear hat and help the nation to increase its intake of Omega-3 oils at the same time - the life for you.

And your friend with the muscles has opted for the farriery option, with its chance to bring strength and beauty out of the furnace and the flame? Both good traditional trades for young men of action. Good, very good, but perhaps we'd better make sure you're both going into this with your eyes open.

First of all, fish: they're not as predictable as they were before the ice-caps started melting. They can turn up more or less anywhere these days - Scarborough woof in the Pacific and Whitby cod in the Red Sea. Call them sailors' tales, but polar bears have been spotted off Dover scoffing the sole. And you'd better check what you're allowed to catch - most of the fish on the Department of Health's list of allowed foods (to be published shortly after the smoking ban comes into effect) are subject to DEFRA quotas. And forget the hat - health and safety rules forbid anything that can get caught in the topsail or mainbrace. Then there's insurance; soon the industry will refuse to take risks on fishermen under the new flooding cover exemption clause.

Now, young Mr Blacksmith. Think - where are the horses going to come from? When this fox hunting ban sinks in, there are going to be more horsemeat pies than Sweeney Todd could find pepper and salt for. Which will leave you with a few Arabellas and their little ponies - and most of those have market trader parents who'd rather superglue a shoe on than pay your prices.

What about estate agency? Plenty of fresh air for you boys and only rudimentary maths needed, basically the ability to think of a number and treble it. Actual offices are dying out because most agencies have sold their valuable High Street properties, but you could work from your car with fitted phone and laptop. You'd be doing a lot for those rural areas you love - finding wealthy weekend buyers to convert empty village shops and post offices into private homes. Very nice.

Hmm , you two girls fancy call handling. It went to India a while ago, lot of money invested in making sure the workforce could chat about the weather in Manchester and so on. As their economy picks up, the business will probably go to the cheap labour market of the Philippines. You might be better off in beauty, nails or hair - at least the customer has to sit in front of you, so you can't be replaced by internet shopping, and you do get to call yourself a technician or a therapist, which is nice. And if you get fed up with doing Brazilians, a bit of extra training on a botox for beginners course could set you up nicely in plastic surgery.

And who's your quiet friend with his head in a book? Information and library services apprenticeship, I suppose. You do know it's not all about books? Still, very varied: there's at least one cafeteria, several water coolers and a couple of snack machines, as well as the computers, CD players and DVD collection to look after. There are some books, but they're for the more traditional end of the market - the large type format people.

And even they're dying off.

And you fancy cultural heritage? Great choice, we're always making the stuff. Museums? No, I don't mean them, or galleries, or conservation work on cathedral stones, or William Morris tapestries. That's all so last era.

Real artefacts are things of the past. We can simulate the lot on computers - from dinosaurs to ancient monasteries with plainsong-chanting monks. So why would anyone go following those dull old brown signs on the motorways? Our real culture is the TV reality show, the Friday night binge and the shopping mall - that's the heritage you can preserve for future generations.

Well, is that all of you? Oh, sorry, you are? Little Miss Dominate? Unusual name. You're interested in procurement apprenticeship? You know it's about wholesale and retail careers, more MS than SM? I wonder if you've got hold of the wrong end of the... er, stick?

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