The response from employers to a training initiative for young people has been hailed by officials as 'encouraging'. By yesterday, about 7,500 workplace attachments had been promised by 260 employers - including the South China Morning Post - for a $50-million Youth Pre-employment Training Programme. About half the places were provided by the private sector, a remarkable response, said Commissioner for Labour Matthew Cheung Kin-chung. 'We all know the present business environment is still very hard. The willingness of private companies to provide these attachment places has encouraged us,' he said. Mr Cheung was confident the number of companies involved would still rise. Secretary for Manpower and Education Joseph Wong Wing-ping reiterated that the placements would not degenerate into another source of cheap labour, and said safety and health guidelines would be issued to participating employers. Up to 24,778 school-leavers aged between 15 and 19 may apply from September 1 to join the programme. They can enrol in a maximum of four training courses, one from each of four modules: leadership, self-discipline and team building; job-search skills; computer application training; and job-specific skills. The courses are run by 50 organisations of various types, ranging from the Disciplinary Services through non-government organisations to academic establishments. Courses last from one to 19 weeks. Upon completion, each participant would be issued with a certificate, and go on a workplace attachment for one to two months, during which employers would be encouraged to provide mentors. A $1,000 training allowance will be payable to subsidise the costs incurred by the trainees.