Marcus Evans Group | Worldwide Headquarters | American Offices | Latin America | European Offices | African / Asian Offices

Letters: Setting the record straight on YTS

Professor Linda Clarke (Letters, 13 February) calls for “a comprehensive scheme of vocational education and training, integrating college, workshop and work-based elements, negotiated and agreed by employers, trade unions and educationalists, and backed up by government regulation”, while four “young unemployed people” (Letters, 15 February) say they want “real jobs, not a rerun of the YTS schemes of the 80s”.

As director of the European Social Fund project which was funded to design, develop and implement the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), I would like to set the record straight – for what Professor Clarke calls for is a pretty accurate description of what YTS was.

First, YTS was emphatically not a scheme which forced young people into unpaid shelf-stacking. Trainees were paid a premium above benefit levels. By design, YTS was intended as a permanent programme of training and education for the whole ability range across all occupational sectors. It provided a broad curriculum framework, based on clear “standards” agreed by those in employment, and was designed to develop both transferable and occupational skills and knowledge. The programme incorporated on- and off-the-job education and training combined with work experience, an approach which we in the project described as “work-based learning”.

This concept challenged the status quo. Vocational education and training (VET) had previously been conceived in terms of examination-based vocational qualifications, often of doubtful relevance to real workplaces, in a small number of occupations, particularly traditional time-served apprenticeships. The very idea of a framework of education and training for all occupations, based firmly on the expressed needs of employment, was foreign.

YTS also challenged the British perception of what is valuable and worthy in education. Academic subjects were, and remain, more highly rated than any route involving vocational education, particularly given the government’s response to the recent Wolf report.

It is interesting to speculate on what would have happened had YTS become the model for British vocational education. No single training initiative is likely to enable all to withstand the current economic blizzard (though Germany, with its long-established apprenticeship system, seems to be doing quite well), but well-trained and educated people are much more adaptable to changing circumstances, and so more likely to weather the storm. The fact that YTS was abandoned in 1989 says far more about the short-sightedness of politicians and their lack of understanding of vocational education than it does about the design of YTS.

Had YTS been properly supported and developed, there would be no need for the current ramshackle response to youth unemployment that the four young people rightly complain of. But they are wrong to characterise YTS as they do. Professor Clarke is quite right, but how often do we need to reinvent the wheel in this country?
Margaret Levy
Project director, ESF/MSC/YTS Core Skills Project 1981-84 © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds