A new scheme aimed at changing the lives of young people by helping get them into meaningful employment was launched in Galashiels yesterday.
The life-changing stories of apprentices in the Borders were told during the event at the Kingsknowes Hotel, demonstrating how the scheme was of benefit to them, the wider regional economy and society as a whole.
Scottish employability and training minister Jamie Hepburn officially announced that an ad hoc group representing employers, business associations and education providers has been successful in obtaining £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, comprising company bosses along with senior officers from Borders College, Skills Development Scotland and the Borders Chamber of Commerce.
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.
These goals are explicit in the recommendations of the independent “Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce”, set up by the Scottish Government, which last year allocated £16m to support packages of action across Scotland.
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 children leaving care – are particularly disadvantaged.
Mr Hepburn noted that the successful Borders bid – coordinated on behalf of the DYWIG by Heather Ross of the Scottish Borders Business Forum – had been prepared on an entirely voluntary basis.
And he stressed 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.
Earlier, the minister heard a presentation on the mutual benefits of modern apprenticeships from young engineer Scott Robertson (Mainetti of Jedburgh) and his boss Jim Hutchison.
And the positive outcome from a young person’s perspective was eloquently expressed by Stacey Carruthers, who is now financial controller with Hawick engineering firm Turnbull & Scott.
Other employers represented on the DYWIG board are Plexus of Kelso, EBS Europe of Peebles, Buccleuch Estates, Johnstons of Elgin (Hawick), 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 told us: “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.”