Focus on Borders youth employment

Michale Moore in Chamber
Michale Moore in Chamber

HIGH up on the agenda of Borders representatives at council, Scottish Parliament and Westminster level is the need to address youth unemployment in the region and there is cross party agreement that all sectors of business should be looking at giving youngsters a chance.

Liberal Democrat MP for the Borders Michael Moore hosted a recent seminar in Hawick that brought together public and private sector employers to discuss the spiralling youth unemployment across the region.

He recognised the need for everyone to work together to bring down youth unemployment saying: ““Both the governments at Westminster and Holyrood need to work harder together to ensure the best use is made of resources and key partners need to collaborate more effectively to support young people into employment.

“Employers need to think about what they can do to ensure young people get the chance to experience work to enable them to be more employable. The reality, at present, is that very few employers in Scotland recruited young people in the last two to three years and small businesses regard recruiting young people, particularly those who are inexperienced, as high risk.

“Employers most often cited lack of work and life experience as the main reason for poor readiness for work, but these, of course, are the skills which are best developed at work, which is why giving them the chance is so important.”

Skills Development Scotland figures show that the number of 16-19 year olds in the Borders claiming Job Seekers Allowance in August was 310 – up nearly 38 per cent on the corresponding month of 2010.

“Last year, 117 apprentices were taken on by businesses in the Borders and it’s hoped more employers will follow suit ... there is growing support for the apprenticeship model as bosses and individuals recognise the earn as you learn benefits it offers,” said SDS chief executive Damien Yeates.

“This trend is one we as a society cannot ignore and we have a duty as citizens to address it,” said Councillor John Paton-Day, the Lib Dem who recently led a Scottish Borders Council scrutiny working group enquiry into the relative dearth of work experience placements offered by his own council, the largest employer in the area.

“We have all seen recently the impact of disaffected youth in English cities and that cannot be allowed to happen here.

“There is a solution, but we have got to make it happen, not just talk about it.”

“My message to employers who feel that work experience is not for them is: if at first you don’t get the youngster you want, try again.

“To deny young people the dignity and satisfaction of work, the camaraderie and the sense of self-worth it instils, is so unfair. Those of us from generations who had so many opportunities at that age must ask ourselves how we would have fared if we had been similarly treated.”

This year the council gave 16 youngsters the opportunity of work experience with them and a further 16 have been taken on under the Get Ready for Work Programme.

Last week the Scottish Government set out its legislative programme for the coming year and newly elected SNP MSP for the South of Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, welcomed the Opportunities for All scheme, which will see a learning or training place being made available for all 16-19 year olds.

Mr Wheelhouse said; “We have a fundamental issue in the South of Scotland and the Scottish Borders in particular with regards to many of our young people being unable to achieve their potential.

“I’ve lost count of the number of times people have mentioned to me their concerns for the opportunities for young people in the area. This scheme, therefore, is very welcome.

“By launching the Opportunities for All scheme the Scottish Government is ensuring that no one leaves our schools without an opportunity ahead of them by giving every 16-19 year old a learning or training place.

“Further to that, apprenticeships are key to the future of the economy and skills sector in the Borders and the SNP government is adding to the 300,000 training opportunities of the last four years and the 25,000 apprentices this year by maintaining record levels of funding for Modern Apprenticeships over the next five years.

“Not only that but we have already seen 7,000 flexible training opportunities for people in smaller businesses and 14,500 training places to support the unemployed. I also expect the £10 million Community Jobs Scotland fund will see 2,000 work and training opportunities for young people supported in the third sector in Scotland.

“We politicians are good at talking about what we need to see happen so I am delighted the SNP Government is pushing ahead with a positive agenda for Scotland.”