A Hawick firm is one of several Borders employers involved in an initiative aimed at changing the lives of young people by helping get them into meaningful employment.
Johnstons of Elgin’s Eastfields Mills knitwear factory, in Mansfield Road, is one of the firms backing a £450,000 scheme launched in Galashiels this week.
The life-changing stories of apprentices in the Borders, including Hawick’s Stacey Carruthers, were told during Wednesday’s launch event at the Kingsknowes Hotel, demonstrating how the scheme was of benefit to them, the wider regional economy and society as a whole.
Former apprentice Stacey is now financial controller with Hawick engineering firm Turnbull and Scott.
Scottish employability and training minister Jamie Hepburn announced that an ad hoc group representing employers, business associations and education providers has been successful in securing £450,000 to fund the initiative over the next three years.
The award has gone to the Borders Developing the Young Workforce Industry Group board, comprising company bosses and senior officers from Borders College, Skills Development Scotland and the Borders Chamber of Commerce.
The board will recruit three full-time staff to liaise with employers, schools and colleges to deliver programmes aimed at removing inequalities in the job market, addressing skill shortages and cutting youth unemployment.
Those goals are spelled out in the recommendations of the independent Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, set up by the Scottish Government, and last year it allocated £16m to support packages of action across Scotland.
The commission found that some school-leavers – including many girls, those with low educational attainment, the disabled, black and ethnic minorities and children leaving care – found it difficult to secure jobs, and it is now seeking to give them a helping hand.
The successful Borders bid was co-ordinated by Scottish Borders Business Forum steering group member Heather Ross.
Other employers represented on the group board are Plexus of Kelso, EBS Europe of Peebles, Buccleuch Estates, BSW Timber of Earlston, Spark Energy of Selkirk, Qube GB of Galashiels, Camerons Architects, also of Galashiels, Soconnect of Newtown and NHS Borders.
After the event, Ms Ross said: “This funding is so important to improve the job prospects for more diverse groups of young people in the Borders and ensure companies have the right skills base to be sustainable and create quality products and services.”