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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 00:40 GMT 01:40 UK
Jobs dilemma for Welsh valleys
By Richard Bilton
BBC social affairs correspondent

Job Centre sign
Many young people must move away to get work

A survey conducted for BBC One's Six O'Clock News has suggested that many people believe Britain is now a worse place to live in compared with 20 years ago.

As part of an examination of modern British society, Richard Bilton talks to young Welsh people about their hopes and plans for the future.

Blaina sits in the heart of the valleys. A small, neat town with steep hills rising above it on both sides. It is home to about 4,000 people and it is where Nathalie Russell grew up.

"I really like it here," she says. "I know so many people and I have some really good friends."

But Nathalie is facing a big choice. She is 18 and bright. She has passed her A-levels and done well. For her career and her education she might have to move away.

"Lots of people leave. I want to be a teacher around here. But to get qualified I have to move away.

And so many people leave, say they will come back but end up staying away."

When you meet Nathalie's friends you do get a sense that here in the valleys there is a generation of talent that thinks the future will not be where they grew up.

"I can't get money and a career around here," says 18-year-old Kieran. "I have to leave. Simple as that."

Dwindling population

This is not a new issue. The population has been falling in this area for 20 years and across Wales there is an issue with young people moving away.

Some of the facts look bleak. This part of the valleys has seen enormous change.

When I was growing up I was told if you want to get on, get away. But it doesn't have to be like that anymore
Andrew Davies

The steelworks and coalmines that filled the communities with noise and jobs have gone.

Unemployment is high and wages are low. But there are positives.

Travel a few miles to Ebbw Vale and the site of the old steelworks is being transformed, 150 million pounds will provide a new hospital, school and housing.

The town itself is being given a new look. The Welsh Minister who has responsibility of redevelopment is Andrew Davies. He showed me around a town trying to change itself.

"When I was growing up I was told if you want to get on, get away. But it doesn't have to be like that anymore. We've shown in other areas that if you invest you can change things."

'Retirement home'

So how does that sound to the people who live here? I met Nathalie with her grandad and her mother.

Glynn Lewis used to work in the foundries, a big man who has seen the heavy industry slip away.

"I'm really worried," he says. "This place is becoming a big retirement home."

Nathalie's mum has a different view. She now helps young people find work. and said: "It can be hard now - but in five years things will have changed. I'm optimistic."

Jobs hope over valleys rail link
06 Jul 06 |  South East Wales

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