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One step forward...

Posted 11/01/2012 by sevans

Just when we can see an upturn in students attracted to take undergraduate courses in chemistry and chemical engineering, and UK universities dusting off their chemistry departments to meet the increased demand, the UK government has set the whole process back with proposals to scrap mandatory work experience for GCSE pupils. 

The UK Department for Education is currently consulting on plans to remove the statutory requirement for Key Stage 4 pupils, 14-16 year-olds, to complete at least two weeks of work experience. And this comes at a time when the UK government is committed to re-balancing the UK economy back towards the manufacturing sector.

The move has been criticised by the Forum of Private Business, the not-for-profit organisation that represents thousands of small UK businesses, the very sector that has proved to be the best developer of new job opportunities in the private sector – another target for the UK government.

The Forum believes that the government should be looking at expanding work experience placements to further ready young people on the brink of starting their working lives, not cutting it back. After all, the chemical sector doesn’t just need graduates, it also needs technicians.

The chemical industry’s Open Doors programmes have demonstrated that the public has an interest in what it is doing, and by showing the young the benefits the industry brings, the sector can address its reputation issues as well.

‘There is no better place than a proper working environment to test out a career choice, and it’s also by far the best arena for young adults to learn the skills critical to success,’ says Jane Bennett, head of campaigns at the Forum of Private Business.

‘Work-linked learning can also be extraordinarily powerful in engaging students who are bored or turned off by conventional classroom teaching. It’s hard to see how any plan to reduce work experience for school pupils fits with government’s pledge to significantly increase the number of apprenticeships.’

There is little that needs to be added to this – just a request that future steps are all in a forward direction, not like a drunkard’s one step forward, two steps back.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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