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Is C&BE diploma on the Ball?

Five new diplomas are being hailed by Children's Secretary Ed Balls, as offering 14-19 year olds an insight into the 'world of work' but those taking the construction diploma this September will not have to set foot on a building site to graduate.
The Construction and Built Environment diploma (C&BE) is one of five new diplomas being offered this September. Diploma students will be allowed to pass their diploma based on 10 days of work experience where experience in any workplace is permitted regardless of whether it is relevant.

'It is completely ludicrous that students can pass the construction diploma without even stepping onto a building site' said Richard Lawrance, managing director of construction recruitment firm Resourcing Solutions.

'It is essential for students to have experienced the practical side of the industry so what is the point in having these diplomas when they don't even take students into the field,' he added.

A spokesman for the department of Children, Schools and Families told 'The government admits it would prefer students were placed in relevant work experience. This is not mandatory. We cannot legislate to make relevant work experience compulsory for the new diplomas'.

Currently 3,054 people are set to take the C&BE diploma this September, requiring 3,054 10 day placements to be found during the two year course. A further C&BE 8,000 course places have been made available for September 2009.

The total number of diploma course places available had been 40,000 but this was halved this month when Schools minister Jim Knight announced 20,000 students in total had so far opted to take the five diplomas this September.

During the C&BE diploma's design, six sector skills councils from the Skills for Business network collaborated on the C&BE Diploma including ConstructionSkills and Summit Skills

Nick Gooderson, head of standards and quality at ConstructionSkills said 'Some employers felt strongly that work experience needs to be sector specific to have any credibility. About 70% of employers,when asked about the CBE diploma, were in favour of sector-specific work experience particularly for level three, the advanced diploma.

Gooderson said 'Across the six diplomas, employers felt generic key skills such as good planning, communication, literacy, project management were most needed in their industry'. 'It may be that a student will learn about the industry but get work experience in a high street shop where they will use generic skills.'

Currently there are 44 groups of schools, colleges, training providers and employers (or 'consortia') across England that will run the C&BE diploma. The diploma can be taken along side GCSEs, A-Levels and vocational subjects. In addition to job-specific learning, students will be taught English, maths and ICT and learn to relate them to the workplace.

Students wishing to pursue a career in construction may not be accepted into their chosen university because many universities have said they would not automatically accept diplomas. Some universities are also considering introducing entrance exams.

Schools minister Jim Knight said 'Diplomas are supported by industry and over 100 universities and I believe they are exactly what is needed to enthuse those young people who feel that more traditional qualifications are not for them.'

On June 3, Jim Knight announced an £81 million funding package to get teachers trained up to run the diplomas. The 2008-09 funding includes training for 3,000 teachers, 3,600 coaching sessions for leaders and managers and 1,800 leadership support days in the form of consultants to help schools and colleges run their consortia.

As well as the C&BE diploma, four other diplomas are available including Engineering; Society, Health and Development; IT; and Creative and Media. This is the first wave of diplomas being offered to student, with plans for a total of 17 disciplines to be available nationwide by 2013.
12 June 2008


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