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Tests may credit street survival

The street survival skills of young homeless people are to be tested in a new scheme aimed at showing employers the abilities they have developed while sleeping rough.

But a pilot project which will start next week at the London Connection, a day centre which helps up to 2,000 homeless youngsters a year, has been criticised by a leading academic.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment claimed the pioneering venture, which could be linked to the National Council for Vocational Qualifications core skills framework, could become a test in begging.

Unlike conventional NVQ students, who demonstrate competence in the workplace, the London connection candidates will be required to show how they have learned fundamental skills while forced to live in difficult circumstances.

Modules they will be able to choose from include; dealing with harassment, discrimination, street survival, understanding homelessness, living in a hostel, holding down a job and searching for work.

Youngsters will also be asked what they would do on a freezing night if they had £3 in their pockets, a ticket for a disco and a sleeping bag.

The London Connection is putting together a package of training materials and a system of accreditation. The Department of Employment has agreed to fund it for nine months.

Peter Husbands, the centre's workspace projects manager said the development project would finish in June when officials at the Awards Scheme Development Accreditation Network would decide on formal accreditation.