WHEN local MP and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore MP hosts a seminar on youth unemployment in the Borders today, he will do so in the wake of shock figures which show joblessness rocketing among 16-19-year-olds in the region.
Statistics just published by Skills Development Scotland show that the number of youngsters in that age bracket claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA) this month totalled 310 – an increase of 50 (19 per cent) on the previous month and up 87 (37.8 per cent) on the corresponding month last year.
The figures also reveal that, of the 310, 60 have been JSA claimants for between 26 weeks and 52 weeks, while 10 have been claiming the benefit for over a year.
The overall JSA claimant count for the Borders this month was 2,147 – up by 172 (8.7 per cent) on July and an increase of 232 (12.1 per cent) on August 2010. The number who have been claimants for over a year is 305.
The figures relating to the unemployeed teenagers raise obvious questions about the effectiveness of polical commitments, at both local and national levels, to drive down youth unemployment and the availability of apprenticeships in the Borders.
These issues are sure to be raised today at the second in a series of seminars aimed at tackling youth unemployment in Scotland which Mr Moore has organised. The first such event was held in Ayrshire in May with questions and recommendations arising from the gatherings due to be discussed at a national convention, attended by UK and Scottish Government ministers, in February next year.
Mr Moore will make the opening address at today’s seminar which takes place in the Heart of Hawick at 10am. Delegates will include local employers, politicians, Job Centre Plus staff and representatives of Hawick High School and Borders College. Professor David Bell, a leading international commentator on youth unemployment, will also address the seminar.
Afterwards, Mr Moore says he will meet with a group of young people “at various stages of preparing for employment”.
“Youth unemployment is one of the major problems facing Scotland at present and that is why I established these regional events – to help us get young people into work,” said Mr Moore.
“We will have around 60 participants in Hawick from a wide range of organisations and it is a real chance for people in the Borders to give a first-hand account of the challenges facing young people getting into employment. I am confident that real progress can be made. I am looking forward to hearing what others have to say.”