THREE of the Borders biggest social landlords have attempted to give school leavers a foot into employment, writes Kenny Paterson.
And pupils taking part in the Next Steps programme from four secondary schools in the region – Berwickshire, Hawick and Earlston highs and Galashiels Academy – were also told that not working and instead relying on benefits is not a lifestyle choice.
The scheme saw students mentored by staff from Waverley Housing and Scottish Borders Housing Association, while the initiative was funded by Berwickshire Housing Association.
The course focused on the benefits of the teenagers remaining at home, in education and maximise their employability skills.
Other topics include discussions about what talents they already have, homelessness and scenarios such as how to furnish a home or complete a weekly shopping exercise.
Other tasks included mock interviews, while Borders College staff and local employers also gave advice to the pupils.
Greg Steel, a lecturer on construction and rural industries at Borders College, said: “The Next Steps course in an excellent opportunity to meet with potential school leavers who are unsure about what they want to do after leaving secondary school.
“Through this course the students are informed about the clear pathways in place at Borders College into future learning and career prospects.
“However, it is good that there is importance placed upon them that as individuals they are ultimately responsible for shaping their future through hard work and dedication in whatever they choose to pursue.”
David Gilchrist, project co-ordinator at Berwickshire Housing Association added: “This year’s courses have been a great success and the pupils have engaged really well with the course, its content and the volunteers from all the organisations involved.”
Margaret Ross, chief executive of Waverley Housing, admitted it was a difficult time for young Borderers to be entering the jobs market.
“It’s more important than ever that we equip them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make the right decisions as they face the real-life challenges of adulthood,” she added.
“I hope we can do more of this important work in the future.”
Julia Mulloy, SBHA’s chief executive, added: “This course has been a great experience for our staff and the young people involved, and we are really pleased to be part of such a positive initiative that supports the development of life-skills for young people living in the Borders.”