Finding a first job - whether straight from school or following further or higher education - can be the most difficult step in a young person's career. While for employers, winning and growing their business can often mean pressure to employ more staff - an equally big move in these time of economic restraint. But now, thanks to additional funding, East Ayrshire Council can offer help for businesses to make that move and give talented local youngsters the start they need.

For a limited period, companies employing graduates can qualify to have 100% of the minimum wage for their age paid for the first 26 weeks of employment, while non graduates up to the age of 24, employers can have 75% of minimum wage paid for the first 26 weeks. Human Resources support can also provided to help recruit new staff.

Councillor Jim Buchanan, spokesperson for Delivering Community Regeneration said: "The interesting thing is that officially graduate unemployment is not particularly high in East Ayrshire, however, when we analyse it, graduates are resourceful and many have found jobs for which they are overqualified and where they are not using their skills to the maximum potential. By taking these jobs to earn a living, they are preventing less qualified people from gaining employment.

"If we can help companies who need their knowledge and skills to take them on and train them for a meaningful career we are not just helping the graduates, we are also giving the non graduates more job opportunities on other levels. Taking on new employees is costly for businesses. Our wage support grants help make the whole process easier - It's a win win situation.

East Ayrshire Council's Skills Development and Employability Service supports employers and people who are unemployed to match jobs and opportunities. It specialises in tailoring assistance according to the needs of businesses and matching and training individuals to fill the jobs created. To find out more about graduate recruitment incentives, modern apprenticeships and how they can help you or your business please contact: Yvonne Anderson on 01563 503000. If you are a graduate, living in East Ayrshire, are unemployed or working less than 16 hours - then we may have the job you are looking for. To start your career contact 01563 503000 to start your journey towards sustainable employment.

Case Studies: Microtech For Michael Stewart, who had been unemployed since graduating with a BSc in IT Networking last May, the graduate recruitment incentive has helped him into a dream job at Microtech, an IT support and maintenance company based in Portland Road, Kilmarnock.

As Claire Stanley of Microtech explains "We're a growing company, providing installation, support and maintenance of IT systems throughout Scotland and Northern Ireland. We have a wide range of clients in the private and public sectors including the supply and support for the "docman" systems used in GP surgeries all over the country.

"We realised that we needed to recruit extra team members. Laura Neill of East Ayrshire Skills Development and Employbility Service was tremendously helpful in making it happen. In the past we've had to draw up job specifications, advertise, trawl through CVs and then set up interviews. By working with Laura we avoided all that. She made the whole process much easier and as a result we're delighted with Michael.

"We felt it was important to recruit someone local, who needed a job and a start in their career and whom we could train to our ways. Taking on a new graduate was ideal, Michael has the skills and knowledge to do the job but is also very used to learning new things and has tremendous enthusiasm. We're so pleased with the way it's working out we've already recruited another graduate with Laura's help and he starts this week. The ongoing financial and practical support we are getting was instrumental in our decision to go ahead and recruit both graduates." Michael adds "I've only been here a short time but it feels longer. I'm really enjoying the job. The team here are all very hard working and dedicated but they still find time to be friendly, helpful and supportive. I'd been unemployed since finishing my degree and was finding it hard. So many employers just dismissed me because I had qualifications but no experience. I just needed someone to give me a leg up, a start in the industry. Although IT is a good sector for job opportunities, entry level jobs are hard to find. I'm very happy to have found this one." Craig and Eva Sanders Photography For Craig and Eva Sanders Photography, an increasing workload meant the couple had to reassess their business. Explains Eva: "We've been running our wedding photography business together for six years and as time has gone on we've become increasingly busy. As couples we've worked for have gone on to have their families they're asking us to do portrait photography their children too, but I found the time involved in running the business, answering emails, administration and invoicing etc meant that we were having to turn jobs down.

"We spoke to Yvonne Anderson, Jobs Brokerage officer at East Ayrshire Council and we were initially looking for an admin assistant. We certainly didn't expect that we'd be lucky to find someone as perfectly fitted for the job as Kelly." Kelly Fisher, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art had been unemployed since completing her degree last June. She had previous experience of working in a bank and was referred to the Skills Development and Employability Service by the Job Centre. When Yvonne interviewed Kelly she realised that her training in photography, graphic design and illustration allied with her banking experience made her a perfect match.

For Kelly it was a welcome break : "I wasn't thinking I'd be able to get a job that would use my creative skills, and I was amazed how quickly it moved. After months of trying, one day I went for an interview with Yvonne and the next day I had a job!" Eva says: "Using this recruitment incentive has taken a huge burden off our shoulders. We've never employed anyone before and had no idea about contracts, recruitment, selection processes etc. Yvonne has guided us right through that process and the financial assistance is a huge help to get Kelly's job up and running. Without that it would have been far more difficult for us to do. With Kelly on board we can take the business in new directions and keep up with demand while giving her a great start in the industry."