Colleges need 'help to cater for jobless'

COLLEGES in areas where people have lost their jobs need extra help to offer courses for adults.

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The claim came from Drew Smith, Labour MSP for Glasgow, who called on the Scottish Government to ensure that people who are made redundant and want to return to education have enough opportunities.

He asked Education Secretary Michael Russell in the Scottish Parliament to ensure further education college courses were available to people of all ages to help those affected by job losses and prevent long-term unemployment.

He said: "I was involved in the fight to save jobs at the Freshlink factory. While we all welcome the focus on youth unemployment what more can be done to support adult returners in areas affected by industrial closures?"

Workers at the meat processing factory in Shettleston were told it is to close in the new year with the loss of 150 permanent jobs, in an area which has one of the UK's highest unemployment rates.

Efforts by the Scottish Government task force which included local SNP and Labour MPs and MSPs, were rejected by the firm's Irish based owners ABP Foods, including offers to help keep it open.

Instead production is to be switched to a plant in England.

Mr Smith said he wants to see further education courses provided as an option for people in a similar situation to allow them to learn new skills which will improve their prospects of finding a new job.

Mr Russell agreed it was an important issue and said the govern-ment was looking at ways to support work-ers made redundant.

Mr Russell said the Scottish Government was responding to the situation at Freshlink through the Partner-ship Action for Contin-ued Employmen team to meet the needs of those affected as promptly as possible.

He assured Mr Smith "the Scottish Govern-ment will be active on this issue" of adult returners.

Mr Russell was also challenged over availability of college places by Rutherglen MSP James Kelly, who asked whether he accepted there were people on waiting lists for places on courses.

The Education Secre-tary said: "Every 16 to 19-year-old will get the appropriate offer of learning or training."

Liz Smith, Conserv-ative education spokes-woman, asked why the student support system for college students was changing from bursaries to loans.

Mr Russell said the measures had the backing of the National Union of Students and were designed with this in mind.

stewart.paterson@ heraldandtimes.co.uk

Education

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