On the road to giving young core skills

A business volunteer from SBC's Edinburgh Hub working with Castleview Primary pupils on an enterprise and team building project
A business volunteer from SBC's Edinburgh Hub working with Castleview Primary pupils on an enterprise and team building project
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A link-up with the Scottish tourism industry is just one way young people are being helped into employment, writes Hilary Robb

The recent Scottish Government report from the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce highlighted the stark reality of youth unemployment in Scotland. According to its findings, today in our country we have 53,000 young people not in work and not in education.

The current youth unemployment rate of 18.8 per cent is more than double that of the average working age population and double that of the best-performing European countries. According to the report, “the reality of this statistic is that almost one in five young people in Scotland wake up in the morning wondering if their country needs them”.

Since our beginnings in 1982, Scottish Business in the Community (SBC) has focussed on the important role that partnerships and collaboration can play in facilitating the development of key skills in young people in order to progress them into the labour market.

Currently, fewer than 30 per cent of Scottish businesses have contact of any kind with education. Across the country only 27 per cent of employers offer work experience opportunities, 29 per cent of employers recruit directly from education and just 13 per cent of employers offer Modern Apprenticeships.

The report recognises that even as the economy continues its recovery, youth unemployment persists in presenting real social and economic challenges that we need to tackle. To meet these challenges, the Commission’s task was to make recommendations in order to produce better qualified, motivated young people ready for work, with skills relevant to modern employment opportunities, both as employees and entrepreneurs of the future. In addition, the report pointed out the need for more employers to recruit more young people.

At SBC we believe that one vital approach in facing up to these issues around youth unemployment is in collaboration and partnerships, both in the public and private sector.

SBC has always been involved in collaboration and is expanding its role as a facilitator through its growing Hubs Network across Scotland. Ayrshire is our latest Hub and we now have five: Ayrshire, Borders, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with a further two coming soon – Aberdeen and West Lothian.

The Hub network creates opportunities for businesses of all sizes and sectors to work together in addressing local community issues. Youth employability is common to all our Hubs and is a key part of the network’s ambitions, and we do this through working with young people who are in school and those who have left and found themselves with no clear way forward. This collaborative approach makes a positive impact on society, the environment and the economy, leading to sustainable, long term, valued business growth and flourishing local communities.

For all businesses, the Hubs offer the chance to increase connections and tap into knowledge, skills and opportunities, including harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of young people.

One great example of innovative collaboration in tackling youth unemployment is our SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) of the Year 2014 – Mercat Tours. Both Mercat Tours and another of our valued member companies, Rabbie’s Trail Burners, have just taken part in a very successful work experience week. Mercat, Rabbie’s and three other tourism firms offered two young lads a day in their business with a specific area of focus for each day. The two young men are participating in a longterm programme with Scottish charity Venture Trust to help them move into work.

Both participants needed to gain more insight into what goes on inside a business and this offer of support from the business community was valuable in preparing them for the wider world of work.

The lads were surprised by the range of jobs in the businesses that they visited and had not expected business people to be so friendly and helpful – there are stereotypical assumptions we have to break down to enable people who feel they are far away from the workplace to move forward. The pair’s confidence grew visibly as the week progressed and both young men have been able to update their CVs to reflect what they learned that week in the knowledge they now have positive experience with businesses to refer to at interviews.

There is a lot more that we can do together to link businesses to our young people to build a vibrant young workforce – the lifeblood of a prosperous nation.

If you would like to know more about our Hubs network, our work with young people, or would like to be involved, simply visit www.sbcscot.com or contact me.

Hilary Robb is Hubs manager east at Scottish Business in the Community.