East Lothian Courier – 17 August 2023


Last week was exam results day, which can be stressful for many, not just the pupils. Parents worry as much over their kids as they did about their own. It’s the same for teachers who, all too often it’s forgotten, care deeply about youngsters in their charge.

Obviously, for some there’s joy whilst for others its commiseration. If the latter there’s things that can be done with the appeals system and teachers can advise. But it’s also important to realise that university isn’t for everyone.

I went to university at a time when only some 10% of pupils went there. Numbers have expanded hugely since, along with the institutions, and that’s a good thing. Education’s to be cherished, providing huge life skills. The condemnation by the Tory Government of certain courses is wrong. Whilst we need more scientists and engineers, those courses aren’t for everyone. I was never technically minded, and they were beyond me, though they’ve suited others in my family.

But there needs to be opportunities for those who don’t have the grades or even the inclination to go to university. That’s why as well as supporting the university sector we require to protect Colleges and provide apprenticeships.

When I was going to university others from my school had already embarked on trades. The likes of the Coal Board, British Leyland, BP and ICI all offered wide-ranging careers and skills that could be used there or elsewhere once qualified. Many of those businesses no longer exist and college courses have replaced some of the formal in work training.

But we’ve also seen a decline in skilled trades people and have had to bring in labour from abroad. There’s a skills gap in this country and that needs fixed. It’s why as new industries develop in renewable energy, here in the county, and in the country more widely, we require to ensure young people can access an apprenticeship.

The turbines on and offshore and the industry that surrounds them must provide a chance for local youngsters to learn a trade that’ll set them up for life and benefit our society.