Radical plans by Lord Baker to set up network of 'career colleges' welcomed

Move will allow thousands of teenagers to train for career whilst pursuing academic studies in maths, English and science at GCSE

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The Independent Online

Employers’ leaders and colleges today welcomed radical plans to set up a network of “career colleges” to provide training for 14-year-olds in a range of occupations - from chefs to construction workers.

The plans, revealed in today’s Independent by former Education Secretary Lord (Kenneth) Baker, will lead to thousands of teenagers being able to train for a career whilst pursuing academic studies in maths, English and science at GCSE.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the association of Colleges, said the colleges would be “a new way of of recognising the high quality vocational education they provide”.

“Career colleges will build on the success we have seen in FE colleges enrolling 14-year-olds on full-time courses this year.” he added.

Ashok Vasmani, chief executive of Retail and Business Banking, added: “Lord Baker’s plans to teach young people the skills they need for the world of work is welcome news and is a step in the right direction towards plugging the skills gap that youngsters gave as they make the difficult transition from school to work.”

He added that research by the Education and Employers Task Force showed that young people with skills training earned on average 18 per cent more.

However, headteachers’ leaders were sceptical about the plans with Brian Lightman, general secretary of the association of School and College Leaders, saying: “Chefs and IT technicians are needed all over the country and not just where a technical college might be located.

“These new colleges will be good for the students who can access them but the reality is that they are expensive to open and will benefit a small number of young people.”

He added: “Segregating 14-year-olds into academic and technical schools risks perpetuating the social stratification that pervades our society.

“It does not make sense to spend money on opening more specialised secondary schools when there is a well-known shortage of places in the primary sector.”

Under Lord Baker’s plans, the first careers college offering training for young people wanting to go into digital industries is scheduled to open in Oldham next year.  Another four colleges are also in the pipeline.