A £5M programme aims to take hundreds of young Fifers off the dole and set them on a career path.
With around 3000 18-24 year-olds in Fife out of work and claiming Job Seekers Allowance, and another 400 or so leaving school each year and ending up unemployed, Fife Council has set up the Fife Youth Job Contract Programme to tackle the growing crisis - and offer young people a positive future.
The aim is to create 500-600 apprenticeships within the private, public and voluntary sector, with the Council providing financial support in the crucial early stages, and the first places should be available by February.
Councillor Tony Martin has been appointed the Council’s youth employment ambassador and given the task of ensuring the programme is a success, and he’s been encouraged by the support he has received in the early stages.
He said: “All councillors are supporting this. Everyone in the Council believes this is something that should be done.
“We have a significant problem with young people coming out of school who can’t get into training or find a job. At the same time, employers are coming to us and saying there is a skills shortage out there and they can’t find the right people to train.
“It’s going to get worse as a lot of our skilled workers are in the 50 plus age group who are reaching retirement and we don’t have the people coming through. We need to be looking to replace that workforce.”
Under the Fife Youth Job Contract Programme, employers will be encouraged to take on apprentices, with the Council meeting the salary costs in the first year and the beginning of the second year.
Many businesses have already expressed a strong interest in getting involved, and Cllr Martin said there was a need to get the programme up and running as quickly as possible.
“I quickly realised when I took on this job that we needed to do something for the youngsters who left school last July,” he said.
“We have a big job ahead and it’s vital that we implement this programme immediately to get as many young people into training.”
While the Council is providing an initial £5m for the first three years, the intention is to keep it going by attracting funds from other sources.
“There must be a long-term strategy,” said Cllr Martin. “We need to make sure we have a skilled workforce in Fife. That’s the target.
“We don’t want the next generation living on benefits.
‘‘We want to give them every opportunity to get a good job, security and a good lifestyle.”