The pure skills trap

April 12, 2002

Chris Woodhead's article ("Trouble in the trades", Soapbox, THES , March 29) reminded me of when I was a general studies lecturer in the 1980s and charged with widening the education and improving the communication skills of apprentice technicians. While most were motivated, able and engaged with the topics or skills, one always asked: "What's this got to do with being an electrician?"

If that young man, now in his late 30s, were to read Woodhead's article, with its dogmatic and simplistic division of education and training, he would reflect he was right after all.

Woodhead offers a stark prescription of narrow skills training for "the intellectually less gifted". Innumerable vocationally trained people have believed this only to see their trades driven to extinction by technological change. Most young people need education. Mere training is not enough to get by on.

Anthony Webster
Wigan

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