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City Council launches groundbreaking scheme to help young people into work


Aberdeen City Council is set to launch the first scheme of its kind in Scotland to help young people looked after by the local authority to move into the world of work.

The unique programme has been designed to offer supported work placements for the participants within the many skilled trades carried out by the City Council – with educational opportunities also on offer to make sure the young people emerge better equipped for working life.

The initiative will be focused initially within the Building Services team at the Kittybrewster Depot, but hopes are high that it could be rolled out across a range of council services and ultimately into the private sector.

From left: John Noble of UCATT, ACC Chief Executive Angela Scott, Callum Watt, Liam Shand, ACC Leader Cllr Jenny Laing and Steve Dillon of UCATT

Aberdeen City Council leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: "This is a very practical, common-sense and simple idea which holds out the promise of big benefits for the young people involved."

In its first phase, Social Care and Wellbeing staff will select successive pairs of young people who they believe can benefit from a 12-week hands-on 'internship' with the City Council – and the Housing and Environment Building Services team will then put them through their paces in a range of trades, including fleet maintenance, plumbing, carpentry, joinery, electrical work, and painting and decorating.

Working three days per week, the young workers will spend an initial three-week induction period learning about safe working practices, meeting charge-hands and trade union officials, and visiting a range of work places. They will be matched up with a City Council 'buddy', who will offer support and answer questions about their new working environment. They will also be introduced to a first-year City Council apprentice, who can explain what is involved in making the transition from education to work.

The young people will then spend weeks 4-7 working in the two trades which have most captured their interest and will be allocated to tradesmen and tradeswomen who carry out improvement works on void properties or who operate as part of the response teams tackling urgent repairs and maintenance jobs on properties. They will be given the chance to undertake a range of tasks under close supervision, which are judged appropriate by risk control officials, tradespeople, supervisors and social care and wellbeing officers.

For the final four-week period, they will get to grips with their preferred trade and be given the opportunity to work closely with a skilled worker.

Support will be offered through the whole period to help them sit and pass the core entrance exam which is a 'must' for acceptance on an apprenticeship scheme. The young workers will also be given an allowance during their time working with the Council, and will receive a certificate on completing the course which can be presented to a prospective future employee.

If the scheme proves successful, it could be rolled out across other areas of the City Council's business. The Third Sector and the private sector could also be invited to become involved in the future – and accreditation for the course will be sought from a local training provider.

Liam Shand (left) and Callum Watt (right)

The first pair of young people – Callum Watt and Liam Shand, both aged 16 – will begin the first work experience course on Monday 28 July.

Staff from the Housing & Environment and Social Care & Wellbeing directorates have been involved in designing the scheme, with City Council Chief Executive Angela Scott, UCATT and UNITE trade union officials, and elected members of Aberdeen City Council.

Councillor Laing said: "I am extremely proud that Aberdeen is leading the way with this trailblazing scheme, which I hope and believe could be replicated up across the country.

"It promises to be a programme which could have a life-changing impact on the young people involved by giving them new skills and increasing their life chances, and shows this Council's commitment to taking positive steps to tackle youth unemployment."

Chief Executive Mrs Scott said: "The idea was born after I was introduced to young people who had an interest in working with tools – and we quickly realised that we could create a scheme to give them the chance to turn that ambition into action.

"We want the young people to match the commitment we have invested in creating something so positive, so that we can deliver real and tangible outcomes for those going through the programme. By committing time and effort into young people at this critical time of their life, we can have a transformative impact on their future and also increase the skills base in Aberdeen."

Building Services operations manager Kiemon Stewart said: "This opportunity for young people is the result of a collaborative effort by UCATT, UNITE, Social Care, Building Services, HR and elected members. By working together we have created something very constructive and I am hopeful that it can be adopted across the wider council, enabling us to also cater to the needs of the Third Sector."

Social Care and Wellbeing team manager Maxine McGlinchy added: "This scheme will give looked-after young people the chance to take their first steps into the world of work and give them a route into becoming a qualified tradesperson. We will be giving them every assistance to help them grasp this opportunity with both hands, so that they can take full advantage of what the council is offering."

UNITE regional officer Tommy Campbell said: "My union is proud to be associated with Aberdeen City Council's initiative to employ young 16-18 year olds in the Council's Building Services section. We welcome the efforts of the Council to employ a direct workforce which includes young people who are well trained in the construction skills. UNITE along with UCATT fully supports the management team within Building Services in this important Council initiative."

UCATT Scottish regional secretary Harry Frew said: "UCATT welcomes Aberdeen's initiative to employ young 16-18 year olds in the Council's Building Services. It is imperative that the Council employs a direct workforce which is fully experienced and trained in their construction/building services department, which support some 80 other building apprentices, who are employed with the Council. The North-east is suffering from a lack of young workers being engaged in the construction industry due to the oil and gas resurgence. UCATT fully supports this Council initiative."