Academy to build army of construction workers
UNEMPLOYED people and so-called 'Neets' are to be trained up to rebuild Glasgow, under a revolutionary new plan designed to tackle the shortage of builders, carpenters and joiners in Scotland.
The city is to open the country's first 'Skills Academy' in which both young adults and school pupils will be given lessons in building, joinery and plumbing and then found jobs in Glasgow's construction boom.
The plan is being seen as the first step to counter the growing problem of unemployment in the city, where one in five youngsters leaves school to go straight on the dole, often classified as Neets - not in education, employment or training.
Council chiefs say it is "inverted snobbery" to assume that all such youngsters should be taught academic subjects, and argue that they now need to focus on providing them with practical skills.
The move comes with increasing demand for skilled labour in the city's construction industry, which is expected to boom for at least a decade.
The academy will be run by the council in conjunction with building firms who have long complained about the lack of skilled labour in Scotland.
Council leader Steven Purcell said: "It will be an academy for the whole of Glasgow. It will help provide training in areas like construction and other trades."
He added: "We have got all these people with no skills at the moment and this would help them get into a job."
Initially, the academy is expected to have only around 150 places. City council chiefs are currently searching for a site, expected to be one of Glasgow's more deprived areas.
Once open, teenagers and unemployed people would then be selected and transported from around the city to learn a trade.
The idea of a Skills Academy was picked up by Labour in the run-up to the Scottish election campaign as a way of tackling the Neet problem.
Former First Minister Jack McConnell pledged to build 100 such academies across the country where pupils aged 14 and over who were failing academically would be able to attend the new centres to learn a trade. He said last year that for many pupils there was no point pursuing subjects such as French "when they can't even speak English".
The plan has been knocked back following the election, and was voted down in the Scottish Parliament by SNP and Lib Dem MSPs.
However, Glasgow City Council has decided to press ahead regardless.
Unlike McConnell's plan, the Glasgow academy will focus most of its attention on young adults who are classified as long-term unemployed, rather than school pupils. However, pupils from the later years of school will be able to attend.
Council chiefs would also like to build a further four similar academies across the city, if the plans can attract support from central government.
The plans for the new academies have proven to be controversial, with teaching unions claiming that they amount to a return to selection, if the aim is to take pupils out of school.
Glasgow's plan is the latest bid to focus attention on the Neet problem. An estimated 35,000 youngsters in Scotland are not in education or employment, one of the highest rates in the western world.
Recent surveys have shown that Scotland is facing a labour crisis in the construction trade. More than 60% of contractors recently declared they have found difficulties recruiting bricklayers, plasterers, joiners and plumbers.
Councillor Gordon Matheson, executive member for education, said that there was a clear need to provide more practical skills.
"We are committed to ensuring that every one of our pupils leaves school with a grounding in literacy, numeracy, IT and all the essentials but why should we assume that somebody who is more interested in history is therefore more intelligent that someone more inclined to plumbing?"
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