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A jobs 'head start' for British teens?

Some British schoolchildren may soon be getting part of their education by training as skilled workers in industry. Concerned about the large numbers of teen-agers who appear to be idly filling in classroom time until they can leave at 16, the government is seriously considering allowing the children part-time studies with selected companies. The dual-instruction program, which has been put forward by a working party examining the tuition of 16-to-19-year-olds, would mean youngsters would spend about two days a week in industry.

Many education authorities have been experimenting with various courses designed to familiarize pupils with office and factory work, but this is the first time the government has suggested changing the school system to meet modern needs. A recent report on Britain's engineering industry emphasized a requirement for better training facilities, and it is known that Cabinet ministers would like to see more encouragement given to youngsters who want to learn skilled trades.

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Despite high unemployment, there is a regular shortage of qualified technicians in many sectors of British industry. Some industrial observers believe one reason there are so many vacancies for specialist workers is because youngsters no longer regard occupations like engineering with the same respect as did older generations.

Many experts in education and industrial training see great merits in the proposed part-time school-industry program. But trade union specialists in this field have expressed some caution about it. Union officials appear to feel that part-time industrial training may tend to divert public attention from the grave problem of thousands of 16-year-olds who leave school each year only to find it impossible to find jobs for every long periods.

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