Paul Stainton: Let’s not consign anyone to scrapheap

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host -
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host -
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When we were running about at primary school, in our short pants, still desperately trying not to soil them, we boys dreamt of being train drivers, fireman and in some cases make-up artists to the stars.

That early burst of career planning soon goes out of the window though, along with the snotty noses and the 
innocence, when we discover girls, football and home-

By the time puberty hits, we are bombarded by choices that we must make and subjects that we are advised to concentrate on, “for the good of our future careers.”

But how many of us truly knew what we wanted to be at fifteen or sixteen and of those that did, are you still living the dream or serving the fries down at Fengate?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was about eighteen or nineteen, despite my father’s insistence that I should go forth to British Aerospace and “learn a trade,” by bashing bits of metal into submission with a hammer and burning myself a lot on the welding equipment.

For me this seemed a strange thing to advise your child to do when they were hopeless at carpentry, pottery and woodwork, but pretty good at Maths, English and talking a lot at the back of the class.

I wanted to stay on at school and develop my love of English and drama but earning a wage was deemed far more important and even though my English teacher tried to intervene he was shown our front door and advised to leave quickly, in plain language, that anybody could understand.

To be fair the two years I spent on the shop floor did teach me a lot about long stands, multi coloured paint, left handed screwdrivers and how to deal with workplace bullying, but the burns, the bruises and the sheer boredom were not for me.

Of course it is important to get a basic education but these days it seems children are almost bullied towards academia, even if they show an aptitude for other things, the perception being that you are nothing without a degree and a mountain of debt around your neck for the next twenty years.

This is absolute madness when you consider that we have a huge skills shortage in this country in the plumbing, joinery and building trades, with many companies turning down work because they just cannot find the right staff.

The Greater Peterborough University Technical College may play a part in changing that focus (when it eventually opens in September next year) and the winner of this year’s Apprentice, Peterborough boy, Joseph Valente, has shown those that are not so academically minded that there are other pathways to success.

School was not for him, he left at fifteen, but through sheer hard work and determination he found a way to become a positive role model for the youngsters in this city to follow.

Qualifications should not be the be all and end all, nobody should be consigned to the scrapheap because they haven’t got the right bits of paper.

And trust me I know. All I have to my name is two “O” levels, half a City and Guilds qualification in sheet metal work and a 50m swimming badge.

Still, I think I did all right.