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New start for Christmas leavers

CHRISTMAS leavers have traditionally been a considerable challenge but now West Work - a scheme operating in West Lothian through local careers advisers - offers a solution that guides pupils towards the next phase of their lives.

Last year 36 pupils from 11 secondary schools completed the scheme, out of a total of 48. They attend school but only for two days a week, to work on core skills. "We are particularly keen schools give the pupils extra help on English, information technology and maths," Jo Ainsworth, West Work's co-ordinator, says.

The pupils attend an FE college for a day a week, selecting four vocationally oriented courses. A series of seminars on job-seeking skills, money and time management, health and safety, self-employment and unions is provided by local employer.

Participants have to use public transport, armed with a free pass, to travel throughout West Lothian. The aim is to show what it is like to be a responsible adult. Jo Ainsworth says: "They have to get to the seminars under their own steam - and on time."

At the seminars and in team building sessions, pupils are put into groups. "It gives them a taste of what it will be like when they get a job. They will have to get on with whoever else they work with," she says.

New funding sources had to be found after the initial 1997 pilot, made possible by Scottish Office challenge funding, came to an end. The project is now run as a partnership by Edinburgh and Lothian careers company, West Lothian's education and strategic departments, and the local enterprise company.

From this month the co-ordinator's post will be full time. An example of job creation to a good end.

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