Knitwear companies in the Scottish Borders are to target 250 pupils across eight schools with the aim of recruiting the region's next generation of textile workers.

The program, an initiative of Scottish Textiles, Careers Scotland and the Scottish Borders Council, will attempt to enhance the image of the textile industry, in particular cashmere and lambswool knitwear production, as an attractive career option.

Although the local industry has suffered about 5000 job losses from 1996 to 2001 alone, it will also face chronic staffing difficulties as more than 20 per cent of the current workforce reaches retirement age within five years.

There are also signs of an end to company restructuring through downsizing, with less than 100 job losses logged in the past 12 months, and a greater focus on employing skilled workers.

"Recent evidence leads us to believe the restructuring process in the area is bottoming out," Scottish Enterprise Borders textiles manager Susannah Cole said.

"The Borders industry is becoming increasingly dependent on cashmere production, which has a higher value and good export markets."

The program will be launched to S2 (13-year-old) students and selected primary school students in the first half of this year.