A financial assistance programme has been set up to help unemployed youth from low-income families find jobs. The 'Breaking Down Barriers to Employment' project is funded by private donations to the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG). The three-year initiative provides financial help for underprivileged youth who are looking for jobs. They receive subsidies for clothing and for transport to job interviews. The first phase, launched in March, saw 15 out of 26 participants successfully secure a job. Gary Tang Leung-shun, HKFYG's supervisor, was pleased with the success rate and urged young people between the age of 15 and 24 to join. 'We plan to serve 200 young people over the three years. We are pleased with the results of the first phase. We have reviewed it and will make necessary adjustments to forthcoming phases,' he said. In the first phase, applications were thoroughly assessed and HKFYG social workers visited the candidates. Each successful participant was given up to HK$300 to buy new clothes for job interviews. They also received HK$400 for travel expenses. Those who found a job were given HK$1,000 to subsidise their expenses in the first month until they got their salary. Among the 26 participants, half of them live in faraway areas, such as like Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai; 45 per cent of them were from families who receive comprehensive social security; 73 per cent have a monthly household income below HK$6,000; and 73 per cent only completed Form Five. Mr Tang said the project helps participants focus on job hunting without worrying about money. 'Many of the participants come from low-income families and they live far from town. They have to spend a lot of money on transportation,' he said. 'That's why they hesitate to attend job interviews in town. 'Also they don't get enough support from their parents in terms of job hunting and interview skills. We are there to help them. 'Most of these young people lack confidence and motivation to look for good jobs.' Mr Tang said they encourage the young people to look for jobs within their own district first. 'They can always work as waiters and waitresses in local cha chan teng,' he said. 'For those who have problems finding a job, our social workers will give them advice, such as teaching them job interview skills. We organise gatherings from time to time so that participants can meet and share their experiences.' Fung Ka-ling, a first-phase participant, said the project helped her find a job as an assistant at a private clubhouse in Tuen Mun. 'I was out of work for almost two months when I joined the project. My parents were not working, so we were having financial problems,' said the 21-year-old. 'The clothing and transportation subsidies really helped. I was able to buy proper clothes for the interview. I also received HK$1,000 for the first month. I'm really grateful for that.' Mr Tang said they will organise a small-scale job expo at HKFYG centres. Participants will be able to attend interviews and receive feedback on the spot. 'We believe this is a more direct approach to helping young people get jobs,' he said. Opportunities The 'Breaking Down Barriers to Employment' project is run by the Youth Employment Network of the HKFYG for those aged 15 to 24. For more information, visit www.u21.hk/yen or contact Mr Fung at 3113 7999.