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Fresh start is just the job

Estranged from her family at 16 and meddling with drugs and alcohol misuse, the prospects for Louise Pickthall weren't great.

ON THE UP: Starter Packs Glasgow is one of the charities that has taken on employees as part of Community Jobs Scotland. Picture: Jamie Simpson
ON THE UP: Starter Packs Glasgow is one of the charities that has taken on employees as part of Community Jobs Scotland. Picture: Jamie Simpson

The extent to which she has turned her life around is a testament to the success of Community Jobs Scotland (CJS) the scheme which has so far created jobs for more than 2500 young unemployed people

Initially employed as a trainee youth worker with the charity Youth Alive, Louise, now 18, has also been made responsible for art and craft activities with the Dumfries organisation.

She has designed an anti-bullying programme and created alcohol and sexual health education worksheets.

"I just needed someone to believe in me and trust that I wanted to turn my life around," she said. "Youth Alive gave me that opportunity and invested time and money in training me and building my confidence. The CJS post has changed my life.

"I have now been kept on at Youth Alive as a youth worker working with young people affected by dyslexia to create a support group and design a programme that will make life and school easier."

Yesterday Angela Constance MSP, Minister for Youth Employment, announced funding for 400 more new jobs through the scheme in the hope that every young person supported through the CJS scheme gets a permanent job like Louise.

The approach is based on the Labour Government's Future Jobs Fund, which was scrapped by the Coalition Government. Hundreds of charities and social enterprises, including Starter Packs Glasgow, Action for Children and the Prince's Trust, have been funded to create new or additional jobs. These are offered to young unemployed people and must provide a benefit to the community. They must provide at least 25 hours of work per week, paying at least the minimum wage, for a minimum of 26 weeks.

The announcement of the additional places came as Ms Constance visited Kilmarnock's Centrestage theatre and met two young people who have recently secured jobs there through CJS.

She praised the achievements of the programme and added: "A further 400 placements will ensure more young people nationwide get the benefit of paid employment and improve their prospects of sustainable opportunities."

Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, which manages the scheme said it was good for charities and social enterprises as well as benefiting young jobseekers struggling in a harsh climate.

"Investing in young unemployed people through the third sector generates good results for everyone," he said. "Young people benefit from having a paid job and learning new skills and, for third-sector organisations such as Centrestage, the extra capacity provides a welcome boost at a time when record high demand for services is clashing with falling income.

"This means more people can access the vital services they offer to the most vulnerable members of our communities."

Mr Sime welcomed the extra funding, but said that, with further commitment, the programme could be even more effective.

"With the right investment, this model could be expanded and replicated across Scotland. Funding for the extra 400 jobs is a good start but, with thousands of young people facing long-term unemployment, there's a lot more work to do."

Anne McLauchlan, of Youth Alive, said that having Louise and other CJS employees has benefited the charity, as it enables the youth project to run more peer-led activities. "It also raises the employees' esteem and confidence which then encourages them to reach their potential and give back to the community," she said.

Other charities have also seen the benefit of an injection of new skills. Open Secret, which works with child abuse survivors and their families, had a fundraising group which had not been functioning well, but has now become more active and effective since employing a CJS worker, with the improved use of social media such as Facebook.

Another charity, Glasgow's Fuse Youth Cafe, in Shettleston, also benefited from a young employee's computer skills when they gained an improved website, logo and other design work carried out by Grant, a CJS worker.

Gerry Baldwin from Fuse said: "Grant's skills in web design and marketing have hugely benefited the organisation and given him the motivation to push on, knowing his skills can make a positive impact in a workplace setting."

For Ashley Fenton and Gregor Keachie, who met the minister yesterday and have just embarked on jobs with CJS, the prospects are improving. Ashley, who works as a front-of-house assistant at Centrestage, explained: "I had been unemployed for more than a year and was beginning to think I would remain unemployed for ever, so it was great to be told I had been successful at my interview.

"I was really nervous to start with, but now I really feel part of the team and love the fact that I am finally a working person."

Gregor, recruited as a community arts assistant at Centrestage, said: "I want to study music, so am getting first-hand experience right here. This will play a massive part in my music career."

Fiona McKenzie, company director at Centrestage, added: "We have benefited from the enthusiasm and positivity that these young people have brought to our company. Their delight at securing paid work and obvious pleasure at becoming members of our team is great, and we are excited to see the progress they will make over the coming months."

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Careers and Jobs

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