Fewer people are being hired under a government-funded initiative to train low-skilled unemployed to become junior IT assistants. The Education and Manpower Bureau said yesterday the latest employment rate for its IT Assistant Training Programme graduates was about 74 per cent - down from 91 per cent when the scheme was launched two years ago. Of those graduates who found a job, 83 per cent were IT-related. The average salary graduates of the programme can expect in IT-related jobs is about $7,200 a month, $500 more than that for work in other fields. Li Yat-chuen, who heads the programme and is senior adviser at the Vocational Training Council's Information Technology Training and Development Centre, said the fall in the employment rate was more to do with the economy than the quality of trainees. The programme, initiated by the bureau and jointly offered by the Vocational Training Council and the Employees Retraining Board, is a three-month full-time course. There are 2,640 trainees presently on the programme. Since its inception, 21,458 people have signed up. Of these, about half were aged between 16 and 29 and were educated up to Secondary Five. Applicants must be unemployed and have attained at least Secondary Three education but must not hold a university degree.