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One step beyond

A SCHEME which aims to catch teenagers before they fall into the Neet category has been deemed a success by researchers.

Midlothian Council's programme of alternative vocational education claims an 85 per cent success rate in helping its trainees into employment or further training. Set up in 1998, PAVE takes non-attenders in S45 onto a vocational skills-based route.

Participants are referred by their school and undergo an interview before they can join. They are then offered training and work placements in brickwork, care, catering, welding and fabrication, joinery, landscaping, office administration, painting and decorating or small engine repair, with three months' support after they complete the scheme to help them move on.

Steven Duncan, 19, from Bon-nyrigg, is now in the second year of a three-year apprenticeship with a Honda dealer in Edinburgh, and hopes to become a fully qualified auto technician with the company.

"I joined PAVE when I was 15 years old, when I wasn't getting on at school, and it is thanks to PAVE that I am where I am now," he says. "Cars are a passion for me and the organisers helped me find my first work placement at a local garage."

Steven also did courses in first aid and personal development, which gave him the self-belief to study an automotive vehicle programme at Jewel and Esk Valley. "PAVE was a brilliant experience and it's given me more confidence and helped me work in a team. It was a turning point."

Martin McNaughton, principal teacher at PAVE, says Steven was just one of many success stories: "Of the latest 18 trainees to complete the programme, nine are continuing with further training opportunities, six are progressing to full-time employment and the final three are receiving assistance from a careers adviser to help secure employment.

Nine years into the scheme, a formal evaluation has been published, hailing it as successfully instilling participants with a desire to learn.

Educational psychologists at Midlothian Council carried out the evaluation under the supervision of Newcastle University's education department.

The report says: "Despite being labelled 'disaffected', they maintained a clear focus beyond school of a positive future. At this stage, despite a not particularly positive experience of schooling, these young people do not need to be destined to become Neet (not education, employment or training) statistics."

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