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Birmingham MP Liam Byrne, the Home Office ministerin charge ofimmigrationhas praised the recent arrival of 60,000 workers fromEastern Europe. But if their skills are so badly needed,Barbara Panvel wonders why we aren't training British youngsters.

Earlier this month we saw the launch of theOne Voice group,comprisingBirmingham Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Forward, the Institute of Directors and CBI.

Part of their agenda is to lobby foran increase intraining for young people, because there are severe skill shortages in Midland industries, and itwants it to beincorporated into the school education of 14-19 year olds.

How typical that they are putting the onus on government - this is just another feature of our dependency culture. Many One Voice members are substantial employers and it would be good to see them return to the apprentice system, leaving the schools to concentrate on their job of basic education.

Instead of training our own young people we are importing workers from poorer countries - our economy gains at the expense of theirs. Eliza Tinsley, the Black Country hardware manufacturer, sent its chairman to Poland to organise the recruiting and training of welders. People living in Poland are now experiencing difficulties because carpenters, plumbers, electricians and bricklayers have left the country.

Meanwhile colleges are appealing to employers for placements for their students, but too many people take college training courses only to find no employment opportunities in their field.

It should be other way round: employers using colleges to supplement shop-floor apprentice training.

Some firms are showing the way. British Gas, though outsourcing their call-centres, are training former Rover workers to repair and install domestic heating systems. They have been training people in the West Midlands for some years and guarantee jobs for all those who pass the course.

At the Moat House Hotel in Stratford a shortfall in some of their employees' skills has been remedied by setting up in-house courses in partnership with a local college.

Lee Roofing Services in Cannock have set up a training programme, recruiting and employing apprentices, with a scheme divided into three stages, guaranteeing a pay rise as each is successfully completed. When they have completed the training the apprentices are guaranteed a full-time job with Lee Roofing.

Each firm with members in the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Directors and the CBI could reinstate apprenticeships, so that poorer countries could keep their own skilled people and there would be far fewer young British people who have no hope for the future, far less family breakdown, homelessness, addiction and crime.

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