Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What are we training them for?

I work in a college, teaching English and Maths to young people on vocational courses. I teach plumbers, hairdressers, beauty students, painting and decorators, motor mechanics, childcare and catering students. It's challenging at the best of times.

This line of work has made me think about young people today. The college is in a fairly small town and has hundreds of students. In the nearest two towns are different campuses of the same college, with students doing the same courses. How many hairdressers or beauticians does one area need?

It is obvious there aren't enough jobs for the students I teach. Many of them are doing Level 1 courses, which teach you the basics, but don't expect a high level of knowledge. Many of them I could probably complete all the work for in a few weeks if I put my mind to it. I'm not knocking the courses: many of the students on them aren't academic. But if they can't get a job in the area, how relevant are the skills they are learning?

I got my legs waxed by a student today (which hurt, a lot!). She did a good job, but if she doesn't get a job in the beauty industry, learning the technique for waxing legs won't help her in any other profession. In this way, it's probably a good thing they are studying Maths and English as part of their course, but thinking of the immense costs to the government, are these courses worthwhile? Would it be better to be doing courses in life skills, punctuality, motivation, hygiene (believe me!) factory work, social skills or for working in call centres? These are areas the students seem to be lacking in. Surely though it is better for these students to be learning something, rather than nothing, and the courses on offer are the types of courses they will sign up for.

I just worry that we are setting these young people up to fail in saturated industries. By offering the courses, we are suggesting the work is out there. I know if I had children, I wouldn't want them to study hairdressing in a small town with a maximum of 15 places to work for all these students. If we didn't run the course for 5 years, I'm pretty sure we still wouldn't be short of hairdressers.

On another note, my legs are still red and blotchy. Won't be showing off my hair-free pins tonight then. I can see the merits of waxing though, I felt quite proud of myself afterwards.  The pain is almost satisfying!

My hair-free, splotchy, speckled leg!

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