Falkirk jobseekers ask Joe to tackle youth unemployment

Members of the Link Living employability programme are being offered practical help to find a job
Members of the Link Living employability programme are being offered practical help to find a job

If Scotland’s unemployed young people stood in a single line it would stretch for almost 40 miles.

There are 64,000 16-24-year-olds north of the border actively looking for work - not all of them eligible to claim benefits. That figure doesn’t include the many more who may be stuck in part-time jobs but looking for more hours, or those employed on short-term contracts that are unlikely to be extended.

In the Falkirk Council area, 890 people under-25 currently claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, 150 of them have been claiming for more than six months and a further 155 for more than a year.

In response, a new website has been launched by several young adults from the district who were fed-up at the lack of employment opportunities and wanted to do something about it.

Ask Joe Online - Joe stands for jobs, opportunity and employment - offers practical advice in a straight-talking manner and support jobseekers who may have given up hope after receiving a series of rejections.

It was created by members of an employability programme run by LinkLiving, based in Falkirk’s Castings Avenue.

The Falkirk Herald went to find out more about the experiences of those involved in creating the site and its target audience.

Connor Rankin (19), a former Graeme High pupil, held a series of short-term jobs until finally securing permanent work with Guardian Systems in Stirling last month.

“It was common to be told that a firm just couldn’t afford to keep you on,” he said. “It’s very frustrating. You’re just beginning to find your feet when you leave and then have to start all over again.”

While Connor has succeeded in his job hunt, others are still looking.

Scott Menzies (21) has been unable to find work since leaving Denny High School five years ago. “To receive Jobseeker’s Allowance you have to apply for a certain number of jobs every two weeks, typically between six and 12,” he said.

“Usually, you don’t receive a response at all, or at best they will say ‘they’re not looking for anyone’.

“It makes you feel down. If you go for a job and you’re rejected it gives your confidence a kicking. You feel scared the next time you apply for something fearing it will happen again.”

Scott, from Bonnybridge, says his search for work is complicated by the fact he does not have a driving licence - a common requirement for many positions - meaning he has to rely on expensive and often unreliable bus services when travelling to and from the Jobcentre and interviews.

He’s now one of several young people on the latest Link employability programme taking place at Castings House.

“We run 12-week courses for 16-24-year-olds in the Falkirk area, with referrals coming from a wide variety of organisations,” said volunteer worker Ally Scott.

“The programme is classroom-based for the first eight weeks, with two days per week focusing on elements such as confidence and motivation, personal development, application forms and interview techniques, letter writing, planning telephone calls, IT skills, how to job search effectively and transition into employment.

“The participants are identifying potential work experience opportunities, using skills they are learning to contact local employers.”

For more information, visit www.askjoeonline.com.

Council help for jobseekers

As the largest employer in the district, Falkirk Council said it had a long-standing commitment to training and employing young people.

“A robust, thriving and diverse economy is of vital importance for all of Scotland’s communities,” said a local authority spokeswoman.

“The collective strength and wellbeing of any community will be heavily influenced by the level of employment, confidence and prosperity enjoyed by its citizens.

“A strong local economy is central to our ability to achieve positive social and environmental outcomes. In recognition of this it is a key priority within the Council’s Fairer Falkirk Strategy to, “maximise the percentage of working age residents attaining and sustaining better paid secure employment.”

The council claims that tackling unemployment and skills levels among young people has been at the heart of its approach and that it had committed significant additional resources which have had a direct impact in providing school leavers with a positive destination, increasing skills levels and reducing youth unemployment.

The local authority supports a number of initiatives from our pre-employment programmes to Modern Apprenticeships through to its Graduate Jobs Programme.

In 2013/14, more than 1000 young people were supported through Falkirk Council programmes while working with public sector partners and employers supported over 600 progressions into new employment opportunities.

“Without the council’s direct intervention providing jobs and training the levels of youth unemployment in Falkirk would be persistently higher,” the spokeswoman added.

“Its approach developing local solutions provides added value public service spending while providing much-needed employment for young people.”

Youth unemployment figures in context

- According to official labour market statistics, there are 156,000 people living in the Falkirk Council area. Of these, 74,600 are in employment

And a further 6200 are classed as unemployed.

- There are 3595 people in Falkirk claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, 890 of them aged 18-24

- Falkirk Council records show that the number of school leavers in Falkirk finding employment is 6.5 per cent higher than the Scottish average and has held up throughout the recession

- Four out of five local recruits to Modern Apprenticeship opport-unities in 2013/14 came from pre-employment programmes supporting young people with previously no or low qualification levels