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Latest figures reveal that Forestry Commission Scotland’s woodland-based skills training programme has helped create better prospects for young unemployed people, with half going on to college, finding volunteer roles or jobs within six months of completion.
The training is part of the Scottish Government’s national drive to tackle youth unemployment and is being delivered in the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) area by social enterprise and third sector organisations across Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, North and South Ayrshire and Fife.
First established as a pilot in 2011 to tackle unemployment among 16-24 year olds, the project has been extended to 2015 and by then it will have created training opportunities for around 650 young people.
Participants work in groups ranging from vulnerable young adults with learning difficulties to those who have served a custodial sentence. They are taught forestry and employability skills while they carry out forest maintenance tasks.
Welcoming the positive results, Environment & Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:
“Tackling youth unemployment is a high priority for the Scottish Government.
“This programme of skills training by Forestry Commission Scotland is making a big difference to the lives of many unemployed young people.
"Due to its success, the programme has been extended further. To date, the programme has benefited mostly young men so it is good news that there are plans to attract more women into the scheme too."
The groups carry out chainsaw training, scrub cutting, high pruning and landscaping work on land that is either managed by the Commission or publicly owned land within the CSGN area for a period of between 10 – 26 weeks.
Joneen Clarke, Employment Skills Manager at Forestry Commission Scotland, added: “They learn new skills and carry out real tasks that are helpful to nearby communities and our forester and ranger teams. Participants also have the chance to complete a number of assessments to gain certificates in forestry management.
“It’s fantastic to see the progress that individuals make. Many begin with low self-esteem, little structure and motivation in their lives and by the end of the programme, it’s great to see how they’ve gained in confidence and are ready to take the next step.
“Participants are given help with their CVs, interview skills, signposted to other courses for further training and receive advice on jobs to apply for within forestry and landscaping.
“We measure success in terms of the new avenues which the young people take within the first six months of completing the course. This could involve volunteering to further training and, in many cases, full time employment.”
Of the 274 young people who received training between April 2012 to March 2013, half experienced success within the first six months of completion by finding employment, going on to further education or filling volunteering positions to gain more experience.
One of the training providers working with Forestry Commission Scotland is Living Solutions based in Cowdenbeath. The provider is running two Fife-based courses covering Callendar and Blairadam woodlands.
Paul Cruise, Executive Director and Development Manager for Living Solutions, said:
“Our participants receive both soft and certified training. Soft skills development includes employability, teamworking, social skills and confidence building. They also gain certified training in the use of a chainsaw, emergency first aid, manual handling, Lantra woodchipping, use of a high pole powered saw, a foundation certificate in the use of chemicals and knapsack spraying.
“Over and above these courses, they get to experience timber extraction; its transportation and seeing the timber processed into products ranging from housing and graded timber through to construction and craft products.”
Craig Cessford, 18, from Dalgety Bay, left school at 16 because he was dyslexic and was struggling with reading and writing. He joined the programme with Living Solutions in 2011.
Craig said: "It’s all about teaching young folk to adapt to working life, helping you to understand what employers want and giving you the skills but also the confidence to make your life better. I now have a job working on the Dalmeny Estate and have also worked with Central Forestry. I hope to keep learning and get good experience and hope to set up my own business in the future.”
In 2013, several all-female groups were set up for the first time to help encourage more women into forestry careers.
Notes to Editors
1. The Skills Programme is delivered via a framework contract. Skills providers receive funding from Forestry Commission Scotland and are required to match the funding to deliver the programme. Skills providers include:
· Phoenix Futures
· Living Solutions
· Action for Children
· Scottish Waterways Trust
· East Ayrshire Woodlands
· The Wise Group
3. Skills providers are responsible for recruitment, supplying suitable materials and tools for young people to wear and work with and carrying out the skills training while being supported by FCS’s Skills Programme Team.
4. The CSGN stretches from Ayrshire, Inverclyde and Dunbartonshire in the west to Fife and the Lothians in the east.
5. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government’s Environment & Forestry Directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
6. For news, events and recreation information log on to: www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests or https://twitter.com/FCScotlandNews
7. The FCS agobair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridhcoilltearachdRiaghaltasna h-Alba agus a’ riaghladhnan 660,000 heactaireanann an OighreachdnaCoilleNàiseanta, a’ dìonadh, a’ cumailsmachd air agus a’ leudachadhnancoillteangusbuannachdan a thoirtdhacoimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidhagus, agobair an aghaidhatharrachadhgnàth-shìde. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland