Employment opportunities for many Borders youngsters were given a boost this week as the region’s business leaders and the Scottish Government joined forces to help them.
Scottish employability and training minister Jamie Hepburn was in the region on Wednesday to announce that an ad hoc group representing employers, business associations and education providers has been successful in securing £450,000 to fund the initiative over the next three years.
The award has gone to the Borders Developing the Young Workforce Industry Group board, made up of company bosses along with senior officers from Borders College, Skills Development Scotland and the Borders Chamber of Commerce.
In the days ahead, the board will recruit three full-time staff to liaise with employers, schools and colleges to deliver programmes aimed at removing inequalities in the local job market, addressing skill shortages and cutting youth unemployment.
Those goals are explicit in the recommendations of the independent Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce set up by the Scottish Government, and last year it allocated £16m to support packages of action nationwide.
The commission found that while most young people move on to positive destinations after leaving school or further education, some – including many girls, those with low educational attainment, the disabled, black and ethnic minorities and looked-after children leaving care – can struggle.
The successful Borders bid – co-ordinated by Heather Ross of the Scottish Borders Business Forum – had been prepared on an entirely voluntary basis, with Mr Hepburn stressing that employers in the region were central to the success of the initiative by putting the recruitment of young people at the heart of their approach to workforce planning.
Major employers represented on the board are Plexus of Kelso, EBS Europe of Peebles, Buccleuch Estates, Hawick firm Johnstons of Elgin, BSW Timber of Earlston, Spark Energy of Selkirk, Qube GB of Galashiels, Camerons Architects also of Galashiels, Soconnect of Newtown and NHS Borders.
After the event, Ms Ross said: “This funding is so important to improve the job prospects for more diverse groups of young people in the Borders and ensure companies have the right skills’ base to be sustainable and create quality products and services.”