System allows us to tailor our support, says Damien Yeates
Striking the balance between national policy and local delivery is a challenge for all of us in businesses that work across Scotland. Hitting on a system that can help us do our jobs more effectively by getting that balance right can often feel like striking gold.
Right now for Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and our partners, the 16+ Data Hub feels just like that gold rush. Every day it helps us to more effectively support thousands of young people across the country.
At SDS we’re working assiduously to deliver a system that means every young person has the opportunity to receive all of the relevant support available to them. Our careers advisers will contact them regularly, and work out what we can do to support them.
Perhaps some are abroad, have a job and haven’t told us, some may have dropped out of college or university before finishing a course, but in order to ensure they are getting the support they need, and that we make good on the promise of Opportunities for All – offering training or education to every 16 to 19 year old in Scotland – we need to find out.
It’s here that information sharing plays a vital role in supporting the work not just of SDS but a whole range of our partners including education and training providers, schools and employers. It’s about tackling the “unknown”, and helping us to help young people who are most at risk of finding it difficult to sustain training, education, or a job by sharing information through what is now known as “the 16+ Data Hub”.
The Data Hub does exactly what it says on the tin, enabling up-to-date information on 16 to 24 year olds to be held in a central area that can be updated and shared securely between key partner agencies. It includes information on expected school leaving dates and where young people are intending going after school – whether this be into a job, modern apprenticeship, college or university.
Those partner agencies include SDS, the Scottish Funding Council, local authorities, universities, colleges and UCAS as well as the DWP and SAAS.
The majority of this information already exists. It’s just a case of bringing it all together.
The Data Hub allows us to support all our young people more effectively, intervene earlier and offer greater and more tailored support to those who need it most.
Take North Lanarkshire Council, where the education department is using the up-to-date information to identify employment trends in its area, which it can feed back to schools to alert young people of job opportunities, as well as allowing staff to evaluate and improve on the offer to young people.
Across the Clyde at South Lanarkshire College the Data Hub is helping staff plan for students with additional learning needs. Although those with complex learning disabilities are flagged up by schools when they take up a place, the college isn’t always made aware of other difficulties – such as mild dyslexia – until the student arrives and asks for support. Being able to access the shared information means help is in place much more quickly.
At Castle Douglas High School in Dumfries and Galloway it is reassuring teachers that no pupil will slip through the net. They are using information sharing to ensure pupils without opportunities will have the right support and guidance from partner agencies when they leave school.
It is assisting Inverclyde Council in its Repopulating Inverclyde Project, by looking at young people studying at universities across Scotland with a view to supporting them back to the area when they graduate. This, along with the ease of accessing information to support reporting back to partners and the Scottish Government, is leading Opportunies for All co-ordinator at the council Maureen Quinn to describe the Data Hub as “one of the most powerful tools” at the council’s disposal.
These benefits are being echoed by other partners across the country.
“Across the country” is important here. It’s the Scotland-wide nature of the Data Hub that, for me, is right at the heart of this drive to information sharing.
No matter where a young person is or ends up, we’re there for them. Let’s keep at it, and help young people in Scotland turn an unknown future into one full of opportunity.
• Damien Yeates is chief executive of Skills Development Scotland