Charles Clarke should know that an inflexible funding system is to blame for the lack of plumbers.
Instead of recognising the need for plumbers and funding a distribution of plumbing courses throughout the country, we have a funding system that makes classes of less than 14 students uneconomical.
If fewer than a dozen students enrol, instead of nurturing the valuable few, colleges are forced to close the class. The equipment is sold off, the space vacated is given to art or media studies, and the part time lecturer is laid off, or the full-timer who covered plumbing is given early retirement.
When the local paper runs a story about plumbers earning pound;40,000 a year for 35 hours per week with generous holidays, and enquiries for plumbing courses start coming in, what are colleges expected to do? All they can do is advertise for a part - time lecturer in plumbing at just pound;15 per contact hour (less than pound;10 per hour worked by the time administration, preparation, marking and counselling time is added) or advertise for a full-timer who can do plumbing and other subjects at only pound;17 000 per year, rising to pound;26,000 after 10 years - and that is for a 44-week year with 40 to 50 hours per week in term time.
Steve Bolter Wickham House Gestingthorpe Essex