“One of the saddest things about unemployment is the number of young people involved. These young people with their abundant energy and fresh ideas have much to contribute to society and it is society that must suffer from this present crisis.”
Unemployment amongst young people in the UK continues to be a cause for concern as the country faces difficult economic times and the on-going effects of austerity measures. However, these words were written 35 years ago by the Chair of the Wester Hailes Youth Opportunity Programme as the WHYOP was launched. He went on to say
“Wester Hailes has never been slow to face up to its responsibilities and is proving true to form in this new venture which offers young people an alternative to the dole queue.”
Whilst youth training programmes attracted their fair amount of critics, Wester Hailes seemed to find creative ways to provide placements, training and improved community services. The scheme was able to offer placements for example with the Sentinel, the community café and a recycling project. From an early stage the project took a holistic approach, recognising that some young people needed a broader range of training including life skills to become fully equipped for work. This inevitably raised the project’s costs but enabled the scheme to have a more positive and permanent impact for the young people involved. Over its lifetime it had a 95% success rate with its trainees and was regarded as one of the most successful projects of its kind.
When the Youth Opportunity Programme was replaced by the Youth Training Scheme, the programme in Wester Hailes was adapted to meet the new requirements. In 1988, the Sentinel reported on 10 years of the Wester Hailes YTS. During that time nearly 400 young people had benefited from being involved. It was also one of the longest running voluntary YTS group in the country. It also specialised in working with young people who found it difficult to access mainstream training, providing additional support and training to ensure they could take up training opportunities. You can read more about their success story here.
The project got to a stage when it really needed new premises and in 1990, the Sentinel reported on the on-going tussle with the Wester Hailes Partnership over the promised funding that had yet to materialise. When Malcom Rifkind visited the YTS, the manager took the opportunity to raise the issue with him, with the matter being reported in the paper.
In 1992, the scheme faced its biggest challenge, which sadly proved to be its last. The main funding came from Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Ltd. When the government made cuts to their funding, those cuts were passed on making the YTS unsustainable. In April 1992 it was announced that the YTS would close. The Sentinel paid tribute to all the scheme’s achievements and pointed out the many ways that the wider community had benefited from the support and activities of the YTS trainees.