Letters: Savings from Shephard plan

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From Mr Roger Statham

Sir: Reports that the Education Secretary, Gillian Shephard, is considering the introduction of a form of apprenticeship scheme for schoolchildren aged 14 years and over raises some interesting questions.

In an area such as Teesside, which has the highest unemployment rate in mainland Britain and where less than 5 per cent of school-leavers go into employment, an apprenticeship system focusing on modern-day skills and industries would be a most welcome initiative.

It would also most likely have a positive impact on crime figures. Many young people in this area are the third generation of the unemployed. Their parents are out of work, and their grandparents have not worked for many years. They perceive a bleak future, and some drift into a cycle of drink, drugs, truancy and crime.

A modern-day apprenticeship scheme would provide a structured and disciplined environment where such young people could learn real skills for today's job market and how to grow up in today's world without the need to resort to crime to achieve status.

The investment in such a scheme would be more than offset by the savings from reduced unemployment figures, less crime and reduced expenditure on penal measures. As Rhodes Boyson, MP, put it: "Germany has many more apprenticeship schemes, and that is probably why they have less trouble with their young people."

Yours sincerely,

Roger Statham

Chief Probation Officer

Cleveland Probation Service

Middlesbrough, Cleveland

19 July