A MAJOR initiative has been launched to try to curb Larne’s frightening level of youth unemployment.
The Larne Youth Opportunities Programme brings together a range of actions over the next two years to tackle a problem that otherwise would have immense consequences for the area for years to come.
With 32.7 per cent of the borough’s under 25-year-olds currently unemployed, the statistics paint a gloomy picture for school-leavers and the local economy.
And with the figure significantly higher in Larne than elsewhere in Northern Ireland, the challenge has been extended to key players in the community to do all they can to really make a difference.
A target has been set of assisting 60 local unemployed young people into employment and training through the dynamic new project, spearheaded by Larne Borough Council and Larne Development Forum.
At the programme launch on Friday, Larne Council chief executive Geraldine McGahey called for an urgent response.
Mrs McGahey said: “Across Europe youth unemployment is as high as 50 per cent. We need to take steps to prevent that happening here,”” she said.
Ken Nelson, chief executive of Larne Enterprise Development Company Ltd (LEDCOM), encouraged as many people as possible to get involved as the programme develops.
“Everybody has a part to play in this. It affects every one of us, our homes, families and communities,”” he said.
So far a number of organisations and agencies have pledged their support for the Youth Opportunities Programme. These include the Department of Employment and Learning, Jobs and Benefits Office, Business in the Community, Northern Regional College and Advantage.
The Larne Times, too, is playing a part in the initiative as media partner. Editor, Valerie Martin, said she was delighted to support a project that had the potential of making such a difference to not only young people and their families, but the wider Larne community.
““We’ll be highlighting the opportunities presented by the programme and how young people can get involved. We really want the initiative to succeed and to bring not only hope and encouragement, but also real job and training opportunities to Larne’’s younger generation. We’re looking forward to sharing some great stories as the programme evolves,”” she said.
The initiative incorporates a variety of ways to highlight employment, self-employment and training opportunities, including a youth fair being held in the Northern Regional College Larne Campus on June 21. A Youth Exploring Enterprise Programme aimed at providing much-needed qualifications, improving skills for employment and self-employment, along with confidence and motivation is also a key part of the programme.
And a Larne Apprentice Competition, with invaluable mentoring support and prizes on offer, is also in the pipeline.