A government programme helping unemployed workers from Sars-affected trades in Hong Kong has been oversubscribed. More than 9,000 people applied for 5,500 places on courses under the Skill Enhancement Project, which offers training as well as cash allowances. Applications closed last Saturday. The $150 million project aims to help workers who have become unemployed or been suspended from the catering, retail, hotel and tourism sectors, the hardest hit by Sars. The first batch of trainees will start their programme next Monday. Successful applicants will receive up to $4,000 a month provided that they attend at least 90 per cent of the classes held over two months. The government said places for the first phase of the project had been increased from 5,000 to 5,565 in order to cater to demand. The programme covers trade-specific training, job searching skills, English and Putonghua classes, and computer training courses among other areas. The government will launch the second phase of the project in July to cater for more people. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department announced yesterday that it would recruit about 400 secondary school leavers to take up short-term jobs, such as working in libraries and doing research for museums. Jobs will last from a few months to a year.