An extra $18 million will be spent by the Employees Retraining Board to increase the number of skills training spaces by 16 per cent to 92,000. Last year, the number of people registering to take full-time, part-time or evening classes rose by 53 per cent from the previous year. But they had to wait six to eight weeks to be accepted. Full-time courses were most popular, with numbers increasing by 84 per cent. Retraining board executive director Kwong Sing-sze said many of the new students were unemployed. 'Eighty per cent of them are women,' Mr Kwong said. 'Some used to sew for a living but were laid off. Others saw their husbands lose their jobs. And some have been laid off from the retail or hotel industries.' The retraining classes this year will be geared towards people who are 30 or older, have a Form Three or lower education and are seeking manual work. Special courses will be held to help welfare recipients build self-confidence and communication skills. 'We expect more [welfare] recipients will take our courses this year as the Social Welfare Department will stress the importance of learning new skills,' Mr Kwong said. Part of the $18 million will be spent on seven job search centres, mostly in housing estates, to help graduates of the retraining courses find work. The centres will also provide counselling, seminars, computers and other resources.