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17 February 2016, 11:06
Employment in Scotland has reached a record high, with official figures showing 22,000 more people found work in the last three months of last year.
There were 2,636,000 Scots recorded as being in work in that period, making it the second consecutive month that official figures have put employment at its best ever levels.
The jobless total fell by 5,000 over the quarter to 162,000, but the Scottish unemployment rate continues to be above UK levels, with 5.8% out of work, compared with 5.1%.
The news comes after the First Minister announced a fund of £6.1 million to help unemployed young people get into work.
The money is aimed at those aged 16 to 29 who face the biggest barriers finding employment, including carers, people with disabilities and those leaving military service.
It will support 700 job training opportunities as part of the next phase of the Community Jobs Scotland programme, run by the Scottish Government and Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).
Under the scheme, vulnerable unemployed people are offered 12 to 18-month training posts with charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises during which they are paid the living wage.
More than £45 million has been invested in the scheme since its launch in 2011, with more than 6,500 job training opportunities created.
Speaking at the annual SCVO gathering, Nicola Sturgeon said: "It is so important that most of the places will be filled by people who currently find it harder to get jobs - carers, people leaving care, people with disabilities, and people leaving military service - and is a further example of the role the third sector can play in promoting opportunities and tackling inequality.
"Community Jobs Scotland has been an overwhelming success, with almost 70% of young people involved in the programme going on to a job or further education.
"That is especially impressive when you consider that many of the places are reserved for groups who sometimes face particular difficulty in entering the workplace.
"We want to respect people's dignity, value their potential and encourage their ambitions because doing that, and providing the practical support which helps people to fulfil their potential, is the best way of achieving a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.''
Martin Sime, SCVO chief executive, said: "This is fantastic news for the young unemployed people who'll get the chance of a job with a voluntary organisation, making a difference in their community.
"Community Jobs Scotland really has the edge on other employment programmes because it's giving a leg up to young unemployed people who are furthest from the labour market to grow their confidence and skills in a real workplace. That is why most graduates from the programme get a permanent job.''