Long-term jobless scheme offers 5,000 training places

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Media captionThe trainees now face the challenge of getting a job

A new programme aims to give training and job opportunities for people from Welsh homes where no-one works.

Up to 5,000 long-term unemployed will benefit from the Lift scheme which will be piloted in eight disadvantaged areas across Wales.

Minister Jeff Cuthbert said it would help "some of the most hard to reach people in our society... improve their life chances".

Some who have already taken part say the scheme has changed their lives.

Abbey Ashman has been on a pilot of the Lift programme at Tredegar Fire Station in Blaenau Gwent.

Once she was sleeping rough on park benches when drugs such as mephedrone - known as Meow Meow - took a hold of her life.

She described the life she lived then as "horrible - something I wouldn't want anyone else to go through".

But she said the six weeks of training had provided her with new hopes and dreams, the prospect of a full-time job and a plan to apply for a university place in September.

She said: "Before I started this course I had no confidence.

"I didn't think I was going to have much of a future because of my past. I didn't trust anyone... I just thought I was going to be a down and out for the rest of my life. This course has been brilliant, changed me completely."

Martin Henderson, area manager for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, has been running the Tredegar pilot for the 13 young people.

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Media captionOne in five Welsh households are without a single person in work

He said most of the group would not have been given a second look if they had applied for a fire service job because being long-term unemployed they had nothing current on their CVs.

On the scheme they have been given daily routine, including wearing uniform, parades and learning operational firefighting skills aimed at team building.

"It's given them something very positive, something to feel good about," said Mr Henderson.

"Surround them with positive people, extend them a little bit outside their comfort zone, extend their boundaries and make them realise they're good at some of this stuff.

Image caption Abbey Ashman says she now plans to apply to university after being on the pilot

"Because it's easy to forget, if you've been unemployed for nine years - and that's the lengthiest time that we've had for somebody on the programme - you forget what you're good at."

Mr Henderson said the young people were leaving the pilot scheme with much better job prospects.

"I think they really know what team work means now," said Mr Henderson. "They understand the value of it. They understand the benefits of that."

Under the Lift programme, which will run until 2017, people from workless households across Wales will be helped by experts who will try to identify reasons why they may not be in work.

It has had an initial budget of £500,000 for the current year and will have £1m allocated for 2014-15.

Another trainee on the Tredegar pilot, Wade Boulter, said he struggled to find work in the past but now hopes to gain a full-time firefighter's job, and is "100% committed" to that.

He said he had finally been given a chance.

"I never had that before. Nobody's ever given me a chance and believed in me," he said.

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