It was with great surprise that we read your article "Careers disgrace threatens new start" (TES, July 4). In that article, Graham Mackenzie, chairman of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, questions the quality of some parts of the Careers Service and, in particular, its role in relation to Modern Apprenticeships.
We reject entirely his assertion that the Careers Service fails to tell young people about Modern Apprenticeships in engineering. Such information that exists is presented to young people alongside other options for their consideration. The sad truth is that while general information on Modern Apprenticeships is plentiful, there is only limited information about specific vacancies available at the time young people are making their decisions. The remedy is in the hands of the industry not the Careers Service. In contrast, information on full-time further education courses is readily available and many young people are not prepared to forgo a specific opportunity in college for the chance of a future Modern Apprenticeship. Such views held by young people and their parents are also exacerbated by the introduction of "clearing houses". Young people need clear opportunities to consider. This is the challenge for Modern Apprenticeship providers to meet.
The article also fails to acknowledge the significant initiatives taken by the Careers Service. A good example of this occurred during the very week that Mr Mackenzie gave his talk. A partnership jointly sponsored by the Careers Service and British Aerospace was opened in the West of England. The partnership centre will offer experience and develop curriculum material to enable increasing numbers of careers advisers, teachers and students to gain insight into the fast-changing world of engineering.
On the general matter of quality, Mr Mackenzie is qualified to comment only on the Careers Service of which he himself was chairman until March 31, 1997. At that time the contract for the Black Country Careers Service was awarded to a new contractor. To argue from the particular to the general is always tempting and always to be resisted. We, on the other hand, provide the Careers Service in around 25 per cent of England and have a much broader base upon which to refute entirely the claim that it is a "disgrace". It is significantly better than pre-1994, and is improving year on year.
Chief executive Careers Enterprise Group DELIA KEVILLE
Director Lifetime Careers Group IAN BOURNE
Managing director VT Southern Careers KEITH HARRISON
Chief executive Learning Partnership West PAUL CHUBB
Chief executive Guidance Enterprises Group RAY AUVRAY
Chief executive Prospects JONAH WATTS
Director CfBT Thames Careers Guidance