It may not be apprenticeships of old, but it's a start.
The education system in the U.K. is in a constant state of flux and turmoil. O-levels, GCSEs, A-levels -- but what about the baccalaureate? Yes? If you must have a degree, enjoy the debt. Not everyone is university material, and frankly, society needs skilled tradesmen and women just as much -- if not more, considering the shortage of manual laborers the country now has.
Where graduates scrabble and dwell in misery over yet-another month of unemployment, the country cries out for plumbers, electricians, mechanics and the like. In the U.K., it used to be commonplace for those who left school to be able to train up for a profession, but now, trying to secure a place can be like pulling out teeth. (The year of battling school, funding refusals and meetings to secure a mechanics place for my brother still leaves a bitter taste.)
Perhaps the government has now caught up on this shortage. Next year, a new "breed" of school which combines study and work placements will be up to 40 establishments. Aimed at students over 14 years old, roughly 100 national and local employers are currently involved, and students will take GCSEs as normal but also will complete vocational qualifications.
Some of the new schools will focus on particular paths, such as environmental studies, engineering or hospitality. Others will focus on retail, space, science and maths.
Critics say that these schools will force students to make career decisions too early, but frankly, how many people have had to alter career paths in the wake of the recession? A piece of paper with a grade is one thing, but vocational skills are likely to be more valuable in the long run.
According to the BBC, some teachers say that students are too young to train in this manner, but as an ex-teacher myself, I disagree. Students no longer glide into work and stay there until they retire, and the more diverse your skill set, the better chance you'll have in a future where the economy is fragile and competition fierce.
Image credit: Richard Phillip Rücker