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Issue:- 12 January  2012

Forum warns Government over plans to ditch school work experience placements

THE Forum of Private Business has expressed concern at government proposals to scrap mandatory work experience for GCSE pupils.

The not-for-profit support group warned in a letter to the Department for Education; which is currently consulting on plans to remove the statutory requirement for Key Stage 4 (14 to 16 year olds) pupils to complete at least 2 weeks of work experience; that doing so will further reduce the number of work-ready youngsters entering the job market.

In fact, the Forum says that far from removing the current provision, the Government should be looking at expanding work experience placements to further ready youngsters on the brink of starting their working lives.

The Forum’s Head of Campaigns, Jane Bennett, said:- "We believe work experience is vital in helping to prepare young people for the world of work.  There’s 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 so critical to success. If small businesses in the private sector are to lead job creation and tackle unemployment, they need a better labour force that includes young, ambitious and talented individuals who know what it takes to thrive in the workplace. Our training and skills panel research shows our members already believe young people in the UK are largely unprepared for the workplace. New starters frequently arrive with few or no basic skills, and need guidance on even simple things such as appropriate dress code and punctuality – the very basics of a work ethic.  Business owners also frequently point out that young people are taught no first aid or health and safety skills, and together these types of inadequacies make them very resource intensive.  Our research with businesses also identifies poor attitude as a common problem. Class hours and a lenient view of absence during their schooling often means many new starters are unwilling to work unsocial hours, get up early, or even make it in on time. Owners have also cited instances of new recruits refusing to carry out menial tasks they considered beneath them. Quite frankly, we need more work experience, not less, to help break down these types of immature mindsets and attitudes.  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."

The Forum’s letter does, however, welcome the Government’s proposals to improve vocational programmes for young people, which it says is vital to fulfil employee requirements of small firms. It also welcomed plans for improved links between educators and local business leaders.

"Training and skills providers have traditionally been poor at engaging with small businesses. This has improved in some areas, but provision still remains patchy. We have already highlighted this as a problem area before and have called for greater engagement, so fully support the Department’s current proposals." added Miss Bennett. 

New Year New Experiences - Could you be a Cultural Champion in 2012?

WITH the arrival of the New Year comes the opportunity to experience Liverpool’s inspiring arts and culture, enjoy a whirlwind year full of exciting events and new experiences, plus a chance to have your say and express your own creativity with the people around you. Could you be a Cultural Champion for 2012?

In 2010, Liverpool City Council launched the Cultural Champions scheme as a legacy to the city’s tenure as 2008 European Capital of Cultural. Following the success of the initial scheme, the Cultural Champions programme is now set to continue for 2012 through Liverpool social enterprise Open Culture on behalf of Culture Liverpool.

Liverpool is an inspiring place, which is bursting at the seams with world-class galleries, museums, performance venues and heritage sites. The Cultural Champions scheme celebrates and promotes Liverpool’s cultural life by supporting the Cultural Champions to get involved and experience more of what the city has to offer, whilst creating their own commentary on the city’s arts and culture. Prospective champions can be from any part of Liverpool, from any background, don’t need to be active in arts and culture just have bags of enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Why not nominate yourself or somebody you know?

The new scheme will build on the strengths of 2010’s programme informed by the experiences of the outgoing champions who are: Paul Argent from Mossley Hill, Kristal Clarke from Wavertree, Donna Williamson from Vauxhall, Barbara McGrouther from Old Swan and Becky Smith from Alt Valley. During their voluntary reign as champions they blogged about their cultural comings and goings, represented the city at major events, met dignitaries and started their own personal cultural events and campaigns.

Barbara McGrouther 2010 Cultural Champion said:- "I have enjoyed every minute of being a Cultural Champion, and have gained new friends, new skills and learned even more about the city I love. I think that any person interested in people, community, and the arts, who can give time and passion to the role would have a year to remember for the rest of their lives. I recommend everyone to have a go – nominate – and make it happen. It could change your life for the better.£

Charlotte Corrie, Open Culture Director said:- "We’ll be seeking people with great enthusiasm for Liverpool’s arts and culture, but with not necessarily a great amount of experience in the arts. They just need an interest in new experiences and learning and to be aged 16 or over. We will be guiding the 2012 champions through an exciting year of cultural experiences, learning and giving them the means and platforms to express their ideas and opinions about the arts publicly, whether that’s online, in person or through newspapers and the radio!”

Councillor Wendy Simon, Liverpool’s cabinet member for culture and tourism said:- “This scheme has been a great success. It’s unique in what it aims to do and the outgoing champions have been fantastic, owning their roles and developing their niches based on their own passions. We are very much looking forward to the new scheme to start and I’m glad Open Culture is on-board to take it to the next level."

To nominate a Cultural Champion logon to the website or request nomination details via email or calling Open Culture on:- 0151 478 4550.

Deadline for nominations is Midnight, on Sunday, 12 February 2012.

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