YOUTH unemployment levels in the Borders need to be tackled sooner rather than later and as well as a £1 billion Youth Contract programme announced by the Westminster Government, a Borders councillor is also calling on Scottish Borders Council to increase the number of apprenticeships it offers to young people.
Starting next April, the Youth Contract will provide at least 410,000 new work places for 18 to 24 year olds into work over the next three years, including 160,000 wage subsidies and 250,000 new work experience placements.
With 8.4 per cent of 18-24 year olds (680 young people) in the region in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Councillor John Paton-Day, (LD, Leaderdale and Melrose), lodged a motion at last Thursday’s meeting of the full Scottish Borders Council, calling on the local authority to increase the number of apprenticeships it offers to young people.
His motion, which was approved, urged SBC to build upon the already excellent apprenticeship training it already provided by creating at least two more such places for young people aged 18 and over.
Councillor Paton-Day also called on the council to begin the process to at least double the placement opportunities that already exist, for all work experience schemes within council departments.
Up until about a month ago, SBC was giving work to three apprentice mechanics, one trainee solicitor, three trainee social workers, eight trainee technical services technicians and five graduate engineers.
There were also 16 people on Skillseekers/GRfW/BPU (Get Ready for Work and Borders Production Unit) placements and a further 16 youngsters on school/work experience placements.
“As the largest employer, this council can and should set an example to all other employers in the Borders,” said Councillor Paton Day.
Mr Paton-Day suggested the local authority could form a partnership with a developer and a housing association to construct affordable homes, thus providing jobs and training.
“This is not a radical idea. Other councils in Scotland have and are doing just this kind of project,” he said, adding that the costs could by covered by some of the council’s £6.9 million reserves.
He continued: “I should add that this council has an enviable record of apprenticeship training. All this motion calls for is to continue that.”
Speaking about the Government’s latest attempt to tackle youth unemployment, which aims to ensure that jobless young people are earning or learning before long-term damage is done, Borders MP Michael Moore said; ““I am deeply concerned about the number of young people who are out of work in the Borders and in September I held a youth unemployment seminar in Hawick to look at ways we could tackle this issue.
“Work experience and apprenticeships are a very important first step into the job market and the Youth Contract which has been announced by Nick Clegg will give young people the advice and support they need to be able to gain this experience.
“I look forward to working with local businesses, the Job Centre and young Borderers to ensure that they benefit from this support.”