Young people need apprenticeships and practical education - not national service

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"Young people need apprenticeships and practical education - not national service" says one of the world leaders in Business Sir.Richard Branson. Mind Leaders Uganda features an article authored by Sir.Richard that featured on his Virgin Blog Page.

I love Prince Harry. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to get to know him over the years, ever since he came to Necker Island with his mother and brother as a child. But I have to take an opposing view over his call to bring back national service.

In an interview with The Sunday Times Harry made some great comments about learning from mistakes and moving forward, which is an important lesson for us all to learn. He said: "You can make bad choices in life, some severe, but it’s how you recover from those and which path you end up taking."
I wholeheartedly agree with this, but disagree with the idea of young people learning this lesson through national service. These skills can be developed far more effectively through schemes such as apprenticeships and practical education.

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A great benefit of apprenticeships is they provide the opportunity to earn while learning. One of the dangers of national service talk is that it could be forced on young people without pay, as has happened in the past.
Apprenticeships can provide young people real jobs, plus practical, accessible training and formal qualifications. This can equip them with the abilities to move forward in their careers, and also develop the life skills that are so important.

One interesting initiative I have come across is Americorps, which was set up in 1994 by President Clinton to mobilise the younger generation to tackle meaningful problems in communities, while gaining experience and earning money for educaton. More than 1.2 billion hours of service have been provided through the scheme by more than 900,000 members so far. Americorps also partner with City Year, providing opportunities for young people to work in American schools for a year, while learning leadership and team work. City Year also started in London a few years ago and our own Virgin Trains has supported the expansion into Birmingham,

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Of course, apprenticeships aren't for everyone. While many people will choose to go to university, I would also advocate anybody with an entrepreneurial streak to consider starting their own venture. With loan and mentorship schemes like Virgin StartUp available, there has never been a better time to start a business.
The key element here is choice. Everybody should have the right to choose exactly what route they take in their life, and not be forced to do something they don't want to do. And if they fall flat on their face as they make their own way? At least they're moving forward.

By Richard Branson