Rising youth unemployment deals blow to flagship SNP policy

Sir Ian Woods commission set out measures aimed at tackling the soaring number of jobless youngsters. Picture: Jon Savage

Sir Ian Woods commission set out measures aimed at tackling the soaring number of jobless youngsters. Picture: Jon Savage

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A flagship national drive to tackle youth unemployment in Scotland has suffered a blow after a Scottish Government “progress report” into the plan found a rise in jobless youngsters last year.

Education secretary John Swinney insists that ministers are still on course to cut the number of young Scots out of work by 40 per cent by the end of the decade despite the “small increase” this year.

The strategy – Developing the Young Workforce – was drawn up in the aftermath of a landmark commission by oil and gas industry magnate Sir Ian Wood which set out measures aimed at tackling the soaring number of jobless youngsters which emerged in the aftermath of the financial crash. It included calls for a more vocational approach from schools and colleges, The first year of the strategy saw an 18 per cent decline in youth unemployment to 41,000.

But the past year has seen a 2.4 per cent increase to 42,000, according to the key performance indicators from the second annual report into the strategy published in December.

“Despite a small increase in the level in the year to 2016, we remain on track to achieve our target,” Mr Swinney says in an introduction to the report.

“Whilst there is still more to do in taking forward the agenda, we can be encouraged by the significant progress made to date and by what we have seen first-hand in schools, colleges and with employers across the country, pulling together to give young people high-quality, work relevant learning opportunities.”

The latest report points to growing vocational provision for youngsters including an expansion of Foundation Apprenticeships. This includes 17 employers groups working with schools and colleges across the country. Careers advice is also being introduced earlier in schools, with new standards for careers education and for work placements in schools and colleges.

Stephanie Primrose, local council body Cosla’s education spokeswoman said that the progress being made has been “encouraging.”

But she said: “There is still much to be done if we are to truly transform the potential economic life of our young people. There are a number of challenges and opportunities ahead.”

There has been an increase in the level of youngsters leaving school with vocational qualifications to 9 per cent in 2014-15 from 7.3 per cent the year before.

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