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EDITIONS
Monday, 22 July, 2002, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Employers attack 'degree culture'
Vocational training
The institute calls for more vocational training
England needs more plumbers and fewer media studies graduates, employers say.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) says people are leaving university with useless degrees which could damage their job prospects - not improve them.

The employers' organisation wants the government to scrap its target of getting 50% of under-30s to university by 2010.

Its policy director Ruth Lea said: "We have a great shortage of standard craft skills.

"In schools there should be a proper pathway from 14 where children learn building skills and engineering skills.

"We need more plumbers and fewer media studies graduates."

'Narrow elite'

In a policy paper published this week, the IoD says ministers should follow the examples of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands and develop distinct academic and vocational "pathways".

The government has rejected the calls, saying it is boosting vocational elements in the curriculum and that bosses are increasingly looking for graduates.

Schools Minister David Milliband told BBC Radio Four's Today programme that parents and teachers should be proud of what is being achieved.

"In future eight out of 10 jobs will need a degree or higher qualification," he said.

He rejected the IoD's view that too many people were being encouraged to go to university.

"They want to create a narrow elite," he said.

"Seventy-five per cent of middle-class children go into university but only 14% of those from lower incomes groups do.

"I want to see that standard rise."

Media studies 'success'

The government has been working to boost the status of vocational courses.

Its Green Paper on the education of children aged between 14 and 19 was "expressly designed" to build parity of status between vocational and academic routes, officials said.

The proposals would give head teachers more freedom to offer a wider variety of subjects once children reach 14.

Mr Milliband rejected Ruth Lea's criticism of media studies graduates, saying they had one of the highest rates of employment.

"The employment rate for media studies graduates is almost the highest in the country, so we probably shouldn't knock that too much," he said.

"I think business leaders around the country will be shaking their heads at the idea of their representatives saying we should have fewer people getting higher skills."

See also:

12 Jul 02 | Education
02 Jul 02 | Education
18 Feb 02 | Education
16 Feb 02 | Mike Baker
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