Page last updated at 05:44 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 06:44 UK

14m to boost youth job prospects

Young people (generic)
The scheme aims to stop young people becoming economically inactive

A south Wales valleys council is launching a £14m scheme to boost the job prospects of 22,000 young people.

The Building the Future Together scheme will target 11-19 year olds in Rhondda Cynon Taf over the next three years.

It aims to work with teachers and youth workers to indentify those at risk of becoming "Neets" - those not in education, employment or training.

It pledges to help youngsters falling behind in maths and literacy and offer vocational training to others.

The scheme, backed by the Welsh Assembly Government with more than £7.5m from the European Social Fund, is to target young people at risk of leaving school without qualifications or the skills to find a job.

It will also target youngsters in care or who are homeless, as well as those who are frequently absent from school.

Deputy Minister for Skills John Griffiths, who is launching the scheme, said: "It is vital that we support young people to gain the right skills to enable them to succeed in a competitive jobs market and enter long-term employment."

Yvonne Connolly, of Fairbridge Cymru, which this year has worked with 200 young people aged 13-25 classed at Neets, welcomed the scheme.

Emma, 22, Rhondda Cynon Taf

I was drifting around bedsits and had bad depression. I wasn't really doing anything. I thought about going to college but sitting in a classroom never worked out well for me.

I've done loads with Fairbridge - cooking, canoeing, music and conservation courses. Last summer, I got the chance to travel to Kent to take part in a residential course at the Fairbridge music studio. I'd never played a guitar before but loved it straight away.

Having the chance to get away from home really helped me to look at my problems and focus on the future.

Before, I had no belief in my own abilities and would give up on stuff all the time. I know now though that if I keep on trying, keep on getting involved in positive stuff I'm going to reach my goals.

She said: "Young people who are classified as Neet often lead chaotic lifestyles.

"Annually, 12,000 young people in Wales are classified as Neet (1 in 10) and despite improvements Wales remains in the top five economically developed countries for percentage of young people who are not in education, employment or training.

"However, as the full effects of the financial downturn takes hold and unemployment rockets across Wales it is these young people who will to be hardest hit.

"Many of these young people are at risk of becoming a lost generation defined by disengagement, worklessness and poverty."

Richard Newton, director of Rathbone Cymru, a voluntary youth sector organisation whose programmes are aimed at 2,200 Neets in Wales, including in Rhondda Cynon Taf, said interventions like the Building the Future Together scheme gave young people a second chance.

'Practical situation'

He said: "We know that if we don't address the issues young people face - in school or the home - the cost to society is huge.

"They are more likely to become involved in crime, rely on the benefits system and have bad health. They are going to have a shorter life expectancy. That's all statistically proven.

"There is no one reason for young people not achieving at school. The problem is we don't often give them a second chance.

"It's about making alternative styles of learning available. If you put them into a more practical situation, such as a a construction workshop, it's learning by doing rather than learning by listening."

The Rhondda Cynon Taf's cabinet member for education, skills and lifelong learning, Eudine Hanagan, said: "We will be working closely with our schools and with Coleg Morgannwg as the project's sponsor so that this investment makes a big difference to the lives of young people in Rhondda Cynon Taf."

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