About 1,000 Hong Kong youngsters were yesterday offered one-year internships as trainee chefs on the mainland with pay of just $2,000 a month. The two companies running the project, Abalone King Vigor and Xian Catering Service Group, yesterday said the scheme included food and lodging, with applications accepted from the end of the week. Successful applicants will undergo two weeks of basic training at a catering school in Xian, followed by an apprenticeship of just under six months in which a chef will teach them cooking skills. The trainees will then receive six months on-the-job training when they will be assigned to various work posts based on their abilities. Upon completion, they will be given a certificate and may be offered permanent jobs. The trainees will each receive a monthly allowance of $2,000 - four times the pay of a basic catering worker on the mainland - and dormitory accommodation. The project will cost $20 million. Scheme co-organiser Vigor Leung Sing-wai said: 'It is better than passing the time aimlessly in Hong Kong. It is also an opportunity to understand life in the mainland and learn why mainland workers can, despite earning very little, lead a normal life and even send money back to their villages.' His comments came as the unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 24 reached 17 per cent for the May-July period, with 69,300 out of work. Mr Leung also urged the SAR government to issue clear guidelines on Hong Kong residents working north of the border. The Labour Department said workers who signed cross-border employment contracts with their SAR employers in Hong Kong would still be covered by the employment laws here. Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions, did not think the initiative would be attractive enough. 'The youngsters may simply find it difficult to work in the mainland for as low as $2,000 a month when they can receive a similar type of training in Hong Kong,' he said. Meanwhile, the Census and Statistics Department yesterday reported employment and job vacancies in the major sectors both fell generally in June compared with the same period last year. Manufacturing recorded the biggest fall in hirings (8.5 per cent), followed by wholesale, retail and import/export trades, restaurants and hotels (4.5 per cent) and finance, insurance, real estate and business services (2.8 per cent). Job vacancies in construction were down 48.6 per cent, the most severe drop of all sectors, with community, social and personal services (35.4 per cent) close behind.