An earlier start will bridge gap

30th April 2004 at 01:00
Allowing young people to start vocational training at 14 could stem the high drop-out rate of apprentices in the UK and help bridge the skills gap from the ground up.

If young people are allowed to start vocational training at 14, as outlined in the Government's recent interim report on 14-19 curriculum and qualifications reform, we could see a greater work commitment among apprentices once they have left the folds of school.

The issue we face in the electro-technical industry at the moment is that many candidates undertaking modern apprenticeships at 16 or 17 - on leaving school - find it a culture shock having to go to work every day and demonstrate commitment to an employer. They could also be tempted by other quicker and easier ways to earn money which doesn't involve training for up to four years.

In the electro-technical industry, only half the number of candidates complete the full apprenticeship to become qualified electricians. For some industries retention is as low as 12 per cent. Low retention at this level results in a skills shortage. We are currently looking at a shortfall of 7,500 electricians. In some industries the figure is much higher.

The Government's Foundation Modern Apprenticeship for under-16s could make a huge difference to the achievements and motivation of our young people.

On leaving school those who have undertaken the training would have a better work mindset and be more likely to stay on the course if continuing with an Advanced Modern Apprenticeship.

Iain Macdonald Head of education and training Electrical Contractors Association 34 Palace Court London W2

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