The government is urging IT firms to employ unemployed young people to help tackle the millennium bug, under its new 'Welfare to Work' scheme.
Called New Deal, the #3.5 billion scheme aims to find employment for the 120,000 people aged between 18 and 24 years who have been out of work for six months or more. The scheme will be piloted from January in 12 areas across the country and rolled out nationally in April, with the IT industry being one of the primary sectors targeted.
IT firms will be offered a six-month grant of #750 plus #60 per week for each person they employ under New Deal. Andrew Smith, the employment minister, will be visiting firms including IBM and EDS to urge them to train youngsters to tackle the millennium bomb.
"I want to see the New Deal working with business to harness the energies and talents of our young people to tackle the huge problem of the millennium bug," declared Smith. "With training, young people on the New Deal will open up good career prospects in the IT industry as well as meeting the skills shortage afflicting this industry."
Robin Guenier, executive director of the Taskforce 2000 millennium lobby group, welcomed the initiative, which he himself has been pressurising the government to adopt. However, he added that some companies have asked whether people can be trained sufficiently to be useful in IT in just six months.
Unisys, one of the first major IT companies to show interest in the programme, is considering taking on young people under the scheme.
The youths could find employment in Unisys' Team2000 software factories, said the company. According to Dave Parmenter, project manager at Team2000 - which helps firms work to comply with the millennium date change and Euro currency - Unisys has lowered the skills set required to fix the Y2K bug, which means the work could be done with minimum training.
"You can't take people off the unemployment queue and expect them to be wonderful programmers, but we've reduced the skills set, which means we can bring them in and train them up faster," said Parmenter.
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