‘We’ll cut number of young jobless Scots by 40%’

The Scottish Government has proposed a vocational shift in education to better prepare young people for work. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Scottish Government has proposed a vocational shift in education to better prepare young people for work. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A CULTURE shift away from academic subjects towards skills “directly relevant to getting a job” is at the heart of a national drive to beat Scotland’s youth jobless crisis.

The Scottish Government wants to slash youth unemployment by 40 per cent over the next seven years.

Employers are to have more of a direct say in the way youngsters are educated – including “curriculum design” – in an effort to improve “work-related learning” from early years onwards.

Scotland will be home to a “word-class system of vocational education” in colleges and schools, according to the new youth employment strategy unveiled yesterday.

It stems from a flagship report by North Sea oil industry magnate Sir Ian Wood, which called for a “culture shift” towards greater emphasis on vocational training in schools.

A drive to get more young women working in traditionally male-dominated jobs, including engineering and science, is also at the heart of the plans.

Roseanna Cunningham, the fair work, skills and training secretary, said: “History shows us that it is younger women and men who find it most difficult to find a job, even when our economy is at its most resilient. Returning to pre-recession levels of youth employment is not enough and the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting more young people towards high-quality jobs remains unwavering.

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“The youth employment strategy being published today outlines what we plan to do to equip our young people with the skills and knowledge they need from the early years right through to the senior phase and into an apprenticeship, further and higher education, and a job.”

Unemployment among young Scots accounts for almost half the country’s jobless total. About 77,000 Scots aged 26 to 24 were unemployed in the year to June, though this was 5,000 down on the previous year.

A sweeping review into the issue of developing Scotland’s young workforce by Sir Ian’s commission found that the country is not preparing or equipping young people for the world of work.

Nearly one fifth of youngsters were unemployed, it found, and called for Scotland to bring its youth employment down below 30,000, in line with the five best European countries, by 2020. It called for better vocational education, more work experience and apprenticeships.

The Scottish Government is working towards having 30,000 new modern apprenticeship opportunities every year from 2020 and “equality action plans” will be undertaken to ensure more young women are doing them.

A further £16.6 million has been allocated in the draft Scottish Budget for next year to take forward the measures in the new strategy.

Jane Peckham, of the teachers’ union NASUWT, said: “For far too long vocational education has been seen as a second-class option and has not been afforded the parity of esteem it deserves.

“Improving the provision of and support for vocational education must be, as this strategy rightly recognises, at the heart of developing a skilled workforce.

“At a time of continued pressure on local authority finances, it will be vitally important to ensure this strategy is fully funded and resourced to enable young people to get the most out of the opportunities for training and learning.”

The Scottish Government blueprint sets out a year-by-year target until 2021 for progress covering five key areas: schools, colleges, apprenticeships, employers and equality.

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