College tasters give leavers an appetite

27th April 2001 at 01:00
The success of a programme aimed at finding jobs for Christmas leavers is being acclaimed. West Work, which has been operating for four years in West Lothian, is said to have doubled the employment chances of a group traditionally at risk of remaining jobless.

More than two-thirds of those who took part have found a job or gone into further education. Only 37 per cent of those who left school at the same time and did not join West Work are now in employment.

The programme is organised by Career Development Edinburgh and Lothians, the local council, Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian and a number of local employers.

So far 120 pupils have benefited by attending West Lothian or Oatridge colleges for 12 weeks. They have undertaken Scottish Qualifications Authority courses in a range of subjects including care, joinery, motor vehicles, engineering, electronics, photography and sport and leisure.

There were also seminars led by employers such as Standard Life, Pizza Express and the Army. A four-week work placement followed the collge course to give a taster of life with a local company.

Alistair Russell, aged 16, was among the most recent group of participants. "Before going on West Work I really didn't want to go to college. I wasn't interested in school any more and I thought college would be just more of the same," he says.

But after a motor vehicle course he is spending two years learning about vehicle maintenance at Livingston training centre.

West Work, which is being rebranded as Westwork Plus, may now be extended to the rest of Lothian. Charlene O'Connor, executive director of Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, said: "Inclusion is a fundamental issue affecting the Lothian economy and it is important that we make every effort to help young people to make the most of the opportunities available to them."

Peter Swan, of Career Development Edinburgh and Lothian, said the programme challenged "pupils' negative perceptions of work and further education, while at the same time encouraging them to think seriously about what they want to do."

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