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New deal survey highlights boost to skill levels

Two out of three Scottish participants in the Government's flagship new deal programme found it useful and half felt it had improved their chances of getting a job, despite the fact that fewer than half went into a job when they left.

These are among the findings of the first survey of 1,000 new deal participants, which will be followed up later to find out if their experiences or attitudes have changed. The survey covered all four options offered to 16 to 24-year-olds under the initiative following their "gateway" induction period - job, full-time education and training, work with the voluntary sector and placement in the environment task force.

The study, commissioned by the Scottish Executive from the Policy Studies Institute, found that the group were from more varied backgrounds than commonly assumed: a fifth had stayed on in full-time education beyond age 18, while 17 per cent had no qualifications and 16 per cent had literacy or numeracy problems.

The group had highly complex responses, often linked to their circumstances. The most valuable help appeared to be welcomed by those who were less ready to find a job. "New deal participants with literacy and numeracy problems were more likely than other partcipants to feel that the programme had helped them to improve their skills, learn new skills and look for work," the report states.

But it added: "Some new deal participants clearly felt that the programme was not meeting their needs. In general, there appeared to be no clear association between perceptions of the programme's overall usefulness, and the characteristics of respondents.

"However, young people who lacked confidence in their own employability were somewhat more likely than others to say that new deal had not been useful."

Full-time education and training in colleges and elsewhere, which accounted for fewer than a third of those on options in Scotland compared with nearly half of those in a parallel English study, seem to be the popular choice for youngsters who had domestic and financial problems or who had difficulty in securing a job. These people were more likely to say the new deal had helped them learn new skills but also more likely to have left early.

The greatest dissatisfaction was found among the two-thirds of leavers who had not gone into jobs and who said the new deal had not improved their chances, whereas nearly a half of those who had found a job said the opposite.

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