Being a student doesn’t suit all

11:42am Wednesday 17th January 2007

By Angela Kelly

TRUST down-to-earth chef Jamie Oliver to put his finger on the problem with today's education - too many youngsters are going to university and too few into apprenticeships.

The Government is backing a huge expansion of higher education in the hope that 50 per cent of youngsters will be on university courses by 2010.

But, as Jamie Oliver rightly points out, university is not for everyone. Instead, there should be more teaching of trades and apprenticeships to give all youngsters the chance of a job.

He knows what he's talking about. For the past few years, he has been training disadvantaged youths to work in his London restaurant, Fifteen, and has set up similar ventures elsewhere.

Universities are generally excellent institutions, taking education on to a higher plane and honing young talent.

But the reality of what happens next is that thousands of students gain degrees in subjects which are never translated into any kind of job.

For some, the three years, or however long it takes for them to graduate, are just the start of a longer academic road to gaining practical qualifications that will eventually give them a career.

That is not to say that a university education is of no use to them because that level of study and discipline shows potential employers commitment and potential.

It is just, as Jamie Oliver insists, that it doesn't suit all youngsters.

For many - and not just those who are non-academic - a better way forward would be a practical apprenticeship.

In many industries today, jobs are disappearing in a natural kind of business evolution as other industries appear and demand labour.

There is, however, still the need for apprenticeships in all kinds in practical skills that would channel youngsters towards rewarding careers.

By capturing their imagination and giving them the possibility of a positive future, we would offer them an early jobs' lifeline that might stop some of them feeling hopeless and useless.

And that might just make the difference to how they behave and what they become.

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