By TOBY WALKER
UNEMPLOYMENT rates on the North Coast remain well above the State average, according to the latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The figures for the RichmondTweed and Mid-North Coast region pegged the unemployment rate at nine per cent, 2.5 per cent higher than any other region in New South Wales.
The latest results for June 2005 estimated 20,000 of the State's 171,000 out-of-work people, or roughly 12 per cent of those unemployed in NSW, lived between Taree and the border.
The region also registered the lowest participation rate of any area in the State, indicating only 54.4 per cent of the available workforce was actively looking for work.
The ABS figures might paint a gloomy picture for employment on the North Coast but a joint venture between the Clarence Valley Council and the Grafton-based Business Enterprise Centre (BEC) is hoping to create more options for jobseekers.
Late last year council approached the BEC to help it bring in a project known as the Valley Youth Innovation Scheme, to help create job options for young people.
High levels of youth unemployment in the Clarence Valley and concerns raised by young people about having to travel to access training led to the creation of the scheme.
The project has received $82,000 in federal money to assist the progam's implementation over the next 12 months.
The program will assist 50 young people to undertake the training program, where they will have an opportunity to develop a business idea and receive mentoring to put together a business plan. The ideas considered the most commercially viable will receive a slice of the federal funding to get them off the ground.