Dornan: University not the ‘be-all and end-all’

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott (left) and James Dornan, the convener of the Scottish parliament's education and skills committee at the NAFC Marine Centre on Monday afternoon. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

YOUNG people are demanding more work placement opportunities to get a better idea of all the options available to them when deciding what to do after leaving school.

This was one of the messages a Scottish parliament committee received on Monday when meeting with pupils and students from Lerwick’s Anderson High School, the Shetland College as well as the NAFC Marine Centre.

Six members of the education and skills committee toured the islands over the last two days to hear views from young people on whether or not they receive good quality career guidance.

Committee convener James Dornan said that guidance on career pathways other than university were neglected.

“University is just one choice for young people. Our committee wants to make sure that those choosing work, apprenticeships or college are given the same quality of information about these options to let them pursue the right path for them,” the MSP for Glasgow Cathcart said.

“We have to make sure that university is not seen to be the ‘be-all and end-all’. There is a lot of benefit in taking up an apprenticeship.”

For years, many trades and industry have been struggling to attract young people to consider vocational training and modern apprenticeships closer to home.

A survey undertaken by the committee found that Scotland-wide, 60 per cent of young people felt that a university career was the main focus for schools.

Many said they had not received any information on what options they had with one in five school leavers not knowing what to do after school.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, who also sits on the education and skills committee, added that pupils had been very clear in their message to them: “Give us more work experience in different areas and organisations because it helps us to decide what we might want to do in the future.”

Dornan added that all too often it was parents who expected their children to embark on a university career without considering all the opportunities available.

He said: “We the politicians have to educate parents to make them realise that their children have more than one option.

“Their children can be as smart as they like, but it might be that there are other options out there for them. I think there is a fair amount of work to be done on that, and I think that will be something that will probably be coming out in the report.”

Scott added that it wasn’t always easy for parents and young people to keep up with all the changes made to the Scottish education system over the last 20 years.

Both politicians, however, said they sensed a shift in attitudes with some real changes already evident.

Dornan said: “The private sector seems to be keen to work closer with education services because it is in everybody’s best interest.

Citing a local example, Scott added that the seafood industry in Shetland was now at the forefront of providing educational opportunities.

“They are now doing great work with the education service to make sure young people do recognise what a career they could have in many different sectors of this industry,” he said.

While in Shetland, the education and skills committee has also been meeting representatives from local industry, as well as the council’s education service.