Education Quandary

'The sixth-formers I do careers counselling with all want to make films, go into the music business or own a restaurant. Shouldn't we help them to broaden their horizons?'
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Hilary's advice

Hilary's advice

Yes, we should. And that's because the world is changing faster than most of us know it, according to Richard Scace, a University of Kent professor and leading business forecaster. He spends his time contemplating such things as the fact that India now has more information technology graduates than the whole population of this country put together.

In his book Britain in 2010: The Changing Business Landscape (Capstone Publishing), he has taken a long, hard look into our future, and his conclusions are sobering: "The whole culture of us as a wealth-creating economy is not looking good."

So today's savvy school-leavers, he says, should be turning their backs on academic learning and going for other options. "It's a myth that you need a degree to get a good job. That's something left over from 20 years ago."

Neither will old stalwarts such as computing and accountancy skills always hold their value in a rapidly shifting global market. "Think about this: 12 per cent of all accountancy and legal jobs in the US are going to be done in India by 2010."

Instead, he suggests, today's youngsters should think about developing specialised craft-based skills, then looking East. China's economy is burgeoning and the appetite for all things European is mushrooming. More and more people are going to make their living exporting to that giant market.

Meanwhile, those making their living here, should rethink blue-collar skills. "The call-out fee for a plumber in London is now £120. Plumbers and electricians make £100,000 to £150,000 a year. The sort of jobs that young graduates go into make about £25,000 to £30,000."

But he knows it is knocking your head against a brick wall to try to make youngsters contemplate such things.

Our media-driven, celebrity-obsessed culture looks glamorous and exciting and is bound to make them want its status and lifestyle.

Maybe the only thing a sensible careers counsellor can do is to plant the seeds of other ideas into receptive young brains, so that when the film falls through or the record deal doesn't materialise, there is something else for them to think about.

Readers' advice

It sounds to me as though your students' horizons are broader than yours. They want to do something about which they are passionate - and optimistic enough to believe they can do it. The fact is that they can do it, with hard work and determination. But attempts by you, however well intentioned, to persuade them that their dreams are unrealistic will probably succeed. In this way, you may stifle several truly promising creative careers. My mother always told me that my dreams were impractical and I should get a "reliable" career. As a result, I abandoned my hopes of a creative one. Only now, at the age of 32, have I been able to find the courage and faith to have a go at the career I always dreamed of .
Emilia Clarke, St Albans

What narrow horizons your sixth-formers have. Mine want to be actresses, disc jockeys, soccer players, pop stars, television presenters, dancers, chat-show hosts, fashion designers, models and sports journalists.
Alex Boniface, Bromley

I expect, in the past, youngsters dreamed of being famous jousters or valiant sea captains. Let them have their dreams. Some might even make it, and as for the others ... life will catch up with them soon enough when a mortgage and young children focus their minds. What you should be telling them is that it is always possible to change direction, and if, later on, that's what they want to do, then the training and education opportunities will be there if they go and look for them.
Marjorie Christie, Sheffield

Next week's quandary

What is the truth about primary school results? Are children in these schools really doing better? I know the Government always says they are, but now I read that this might not be true and that children are only being taught to do the tests. It is important to us, because we are debating whether to send our children to a primary or a prep school.

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce at The Independent, Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax to 020 7005 2143; or e-mail to Please include your address. Readers whose letters are printed receive a Berol Combi Pack with cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser.