Skills training: a place to start

Name: Youth Training Scheme (YTS). Purpose: Provide a one-year training program -- to be extended in 1986 to a 2-year program -- to better equip 16- and 17-year-old school leavers to find placement in Britain's tight job market.

Result: About 60 percent of the trainees on the national scene move on to find jobs soon after completing their course. Some employers, impressed by the discipline, extra training, and overall more polished performance of those who go through the program, specifically request recruits from YTS.

Conclusion: YTS doesn't solve all the problems of youth unemployment, but those who join and excel in it find it gives them a head start over those who didn't attend.

Not all 16- and 17-year-olds find work, especially in the Merseyside area where the success rate is more like 40 percent. It's precisely that fact that keeps Tony McGee, local program manager of the Training Division for the Manpower Services Commission which runs the YTS from pretending otherwise to new YTS recruits. Get them motivated

``The first thing when they come into a program is to get a hook into them, get them motivated. You can't sell YTS as the best thing since sliced bread with a job at the end of it. The kids in this area know what the score is.''

But he stresses that their own commitment and motivation can make the difference between getting a job and staying unemployed. First thing, he tells trainees, is that if after a few months they choose to opt out ``you're losing out. Those who stay on are getting skills.''

Youth Training Schemes are carried out in a variety of places, like the Rathbone Joinery Workshop in Toxteth, which despite black unrest in recent years has a largely white community. Caring and discipline

For robust ex-boxer and former Liverpool dock worker Ken McGorry, who with his wife, Betty, and a small staff, runs the workshop, teaching woodworking to 16- and 17-year-olds is wrapped up in caring and strict discipline.

Some come to his workshop with very little aptitude for woodworking, but are convinced that this is the place to learn skills and not just pass the time away.

Some pick up the skills quite easily and become what McGorry intends them to be -- cabinet makers, not just joiners. The big challenge is overcoming lack of confidence, especially with teenagers who have attempted only the simplest woodworking exercises before.

McGorry makes it sound simple. When the trainees arrive, he points out a finished product.`` ` Can you do that?' I ask them. `No, I can't,' they say. `I'm not that good.' `Don't worry lad,' I say. `A Welsh dresser, a bed, a chest of drawers. It's just a box with a series of boxes in it,' '' he explains.

Some who come surprise themselves. The problem, says Mrs. McGorry, is that so many go through school with low expectations -- from parents and from teachers -- that they end up with low expectations of themselves. Building up self confidence is one of the things instilled at Rathbone Joinery Workshop. Building confidence

Some, like 18-year-old Christopher Gardner, seem to have every confidence they can achieve. At another workshop, down on the Mersey River, he's into his second year of training, where he's now working with hardwoods and doing more marquetry, thanks to special European Community funding.

He spoke enthusiastically of the training. ``I came here because I wanted to, not because it's a scheme. The way [McGorry] teaches us he doesn't treat us like kids. They say `This is a job and you've got to do it.' ''

Among the things young Gardner has learned to do is to fit out an entire kitchen unit in his own time. That brought him in 700 (about $980). His greatest achievement, though, was to make a fire surround in beechwood with four pillars.

He has no illusions about the Liverpool job market. ``There's not much call for cabinet makers in Liverpool. If I get my qualifications I can always go abroad,'' he says with quiet confidence.

Bert Wareing, a warmhearted former policeman, is committed to helping young, unemployed people. He now runs a youth training program, the Speke Youth Workshop, in Speke just outside Liverpool.

``I do hammer the back pocket. I ask them where are they going to get the money to pay for the girl, and the family, and clothes they want? I tell them unless they shape up themselves and show interest in getting skills now they will be permanently on the dole until they're old enough to qualify for old age pensions.''

Unlike the Joinery workship the Speke workship provides training in eight different areas -- joinery, sewing-dressmaking, electronics, car mechanics, metal work and welding, art-craft, typing and office skills, and catering. During a visit to this workshop this correspondent was treated to a five-course luncheon ending up with a tasty apple pie that was prepared by the trainees.

Mr. Wareing, who, like Mr. McGorry at Rathbone achieves about a 50 percent success rate, says that even if the trainees do not immediately get jobs after leaving the program ``the mechanics can repair cars in their spare time and the metal workers can make gates. They are really adaptable, these kids.''

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