Northern Ireland launches scheme to tackle unemployment

Businesses in Northern Ireland are being encouraged to take part in a new Government funded scheme by offering work experience or full-time positions to young people currently out of work.

The Youth Employment Scheme (YES) aims to address the spiralling youth unemployment rate in the country and help tackle a lack of work place understanding which is seen as a significant barrier to young people finding and keeping employment.

Private sector employers that are able to offer a two to eight week work experience opportunity, a six to nine month skills development opportunity or a full-time permanent job to an eligible young unemployed person can receive a subsidy of up to £5,750 towards wages and training costs.

Around 19,000 (23.5 per cent) of 18-24 year olds in Northern Ireland are currently unemployed - a higher than average unemployment rate compared to the rest of the UK where 19.3 per cent of young people out of work. The unemployment rate has increased dramatically by 5.2 per cent in the last year.

Director of the employment service Colum Boyle said that the scheme would allow young people the opportunity to gain skills, be trained and find employment, without affecting their entitlement to benefits.

"We hope to put in place 6,000 opportunities for young people by March 2015, comprising a mix of 'taster' work placements, a skills development programme, as well as job opportunities," he said.

Commenting on the launch of the scheme last week, regional director of the Confederation of the British Industry (CBI) Kirsty McManus said the scheme was 'win-win for both the young person and the employer.

"YES is ultimately about investing £31m in the Northern Ireland economy and providing a tripartite relationship between business, Government and the young person to address our spiralling youth unemployment problem," she said.

Businesses are being encouraged by the Department of Education and Learning Northern Ireland to help eligible unemployed 18 to 24 year olds by taking part in the scheme, which could reap business benefits including:

  • Developing supervisory and management skills of the workforce
  • Enhancing the business profile by helping the local community 
  • Accessing a pool of hidden talent
  • And promoting workforce diversity.