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Soap stars speak up for skills; Young actors underline the importance of qualifications.

WE'RE told everyone needs a minimum set of qualifications to get on in life, such as at least five good GCSEs or the vocational equivalent.

But almost half of 16-year-olds are not expected to meet this mark today when results are released.

To get across the message of how important it is to have qualifications, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has teamed up with young actors from Channel 4's Hollyoaks.

Ricky Whittle plays policeman Calvin Valentine and says he's experienced the importance of qualifications in real life as well as in character on the teen soap.

"Qualifications are incredibly important for any career in today's society, so although it may be tempting to drop out of learning to make money, it's important to stay on and find the right route for you," he said.

"There are a huge range of programmes available to young people, so there is always an option for you. The character I play has worked hard to get into the police force and understands the value of qualifications.

"And even if a career in the police doesn't appeal to you, there are hundreds of other options - anything from learning programmes in construction to beauty therapy to travel and tourism. It just depends what interests you.

"When I went to university in Southampton, I wanted to study something I was passionate about so I chose law with criminology - that way I always had something to fall back on if my acting career did not take off."

Carley Stenson plays Steph Dean, a wannabe model/actress/singer who has recently graduated from university. She said: "If you're artistic and creative, like my character Steph, you might think that qualifications aren't important if you want a job in an industry like music. Unfortunately, this isn't the case.

"The music industry is incredibly competitive and to give yourself the edge you need to have a fallback plan if things don't pan out; you have to get qualifications. You need at least five good GCSEs or an equivalent qualification to study performing arts at college like Steph, but by getting a good grounding in the basics, you'll give yourself a real advantage in the long run."

Gemma Merna, who plays Carmel McQueen in Hollyoaks, is a great example of what can be achieved even if things don't go according to plan.

Gemma said: "My character is in a job she loves, but she wasn't a straight A student when she was in school. She found a different route to get the skills she needs to get the job she wanted by going to college and training to be a nail technician. There are so many options if you don't get the grades you want, and you don't just have to re-sit your GCSEs.

For example, if you wanted to be a beautician, you could do a Level 2 qualification in beauty therapy to learn the basics about working in a salon."

Kevin Sacre, who plays Steph's older brother Jake Dean, agrees. He added: "My character is a gardener with experience but no qualifications, and it's been consistently difficult for him to find and hold down a job he likes which pays the rent.

"He loves gardening and the outdoors, but without the qualifications such as a Level 2 diploma in landscape gardening, he hasn't been able to make a career of it.

"Luckily there are lots of different ways to get Level 2 qualifications and avoid those badly paid, low skilled jobs with no future.

You could even do an apprenticeship, where you spend some of your time working and earning a real wage, as well as attending college.

"That way you can get a taste of working life and have money in your pocket."

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MESSAGE: It is vital for everyone to have a minimum set of qualifications to get on in life, say the young soap stars; ADVANTAGE: Carley Stenson and Sacre
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 23, 2007
Words:655
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