Comment: How do we prepare youngsters for workplace?

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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SEVERAL years ago, I attended an education event hosted by the Scottish Government. In discussion, I mentioned the issue of young people not coming out of school prepared for work. 

I was challenged by someone who, from memory, was very senior in a local authority, but had left school at sixteen to work as a hairdresser.  The point she made, rather forcefully I recall, was that her first employer, the owner of the hairdressing salon, had not expected a ready-made employee.  They had been willing to spend time explaining those important little things which contribute towards ‘employability’.  Turning up on time, turning up every day, making medical and dental appointments outside working hours where possible, helping your fellow employees and being nice to customers.  Today, it would include not using your mobile phone during working hours.

SCOTSMAN CONFERENCE: The Apprentice: Building a strong, skilled and diverse workforce for Scotland

Her point was that some businesses were abdicating responsibility for this early support for young people and expecting schools to do the work for them.  Clearly, there is a balance to be struck and there is a lot that can and should be done, in schools and in further and higher education, in families and the broader community to develop employability skills in young people, but her challenge made me more aware of the responsibility on employers to take their part seriously, recognise some of the challenges of employing young people and rise to them.

More recently, as my own children have embarked on jobs, it’s been reinforced to me that some of the support that makes a successful transition into early employment is very much about the little things.  Does someone clearly explain the culture of the particular workplace a young person is joining and what’s expected of them?  Even as simple as, on the first day, does someone show them where to go for lunch?

This is why I’m delighted with Investors in Young People, the framework developed by Investors in People Scotland, which seeks to reward and recognise employers who have a track record in recruiting and training young people, while encouraging others to begin working with young people.  Through their work with organisations which are early adopters of the framework and are now recognised as Investors in Young People, IIP Scotland are seeing excellent examples of how to do all of this well, allowing us to make the most of the great pool of young talent which we have here in Scotland.

• Linda Urquhart, Chairman of Morton Fraser and Investors in People Scotland, will speak on diversity in the workplace at The Apprentice: building a strong, skilled and diverse workforce for Scotland on May 19th