Alisdair Dewar: Helping foster a better future for young people
As we move into 2018, designated as Scotland's Year of Young People, the recent Prince's Trust Macquarie Youth Index survey contained a number of findings that should concern us all. It found that almost half of young people in Scotland fear there will be fewer job opportunities in the next three years, one in three don't feel in control of their lives, and a majority of respondents think a lack of self-confidence holds them back.
The finding that struck me most was that one in five said they think their life will amount to nothing no matter how hard they try. As we quite rightly celebrate the achievements of so many of our nation’s young people this year, we also need to find ways to give confidence back to so many of the disenfranchised in our society who will in no small part determine the success of our future economy. This year, Prince’s Trust Scotland will support about 11,000 disadvantaged young people, helping them to develop the confidence and skills they need to succeed in life. We hope to make a difference, although in order to really claw back some of the alarming findings of the Youth Index, we also need government and the nation’s employers to make the kind of investment in young people that can make a lasting difference.
While a lot of the trust’s work is around improving employability skills, it is also partnering with ecosystem partners like Scottish EDGE and Business Gateway to explore ways of young people starting up their own businesses. For some, in spite of the inherent challenges, starting up a business can be an even better option than getting a job with an established business.
We come across so many impressive young people who go on to build businesses that go from fledgling to viable and it’s an exciting thing to witness their various successes. Siobhan Mackenzie, who won the trust’s Royal Bank of Scotland Enterprise Award in 2016, is one such inspiring individual who overcame health issues to launch a fashion business that combines modern design with traditional craftsmanship, and her brand now sells in some the world’s most exclusive high-street stores and boutiques. Freddie Spindler, the self-styled doughnut entrepreneur, benefited from ongoing support from Prince’s Trust Scotland and is a similar success story in the making. We are also fortunate to be able to draw on the support of established entrepreneurs from Scotland’s business scene such as Blackcircles.com founder Mike Welch who himself was supported by the Prince’s Trust at the beginning of his career. As a patron of the trust and though the Welch Trust with his wife Victoria, Mike has not only given back in a significant way, but he personifies the business success that can be achieved when the cards don’t always fall in your favour as a young person trying to get on in life.
As a true digital entrepreneur, it was invaluable to have Mike as part of the team in the lead-up to the launch of Prince’s Trust Online, which now enables web access to employability and enterprise programmes via smartphone, tablet and computer when individuals can’t attend in person.
On Friday, 11 May at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, the annual Prince’s Trust Financial & Business Lunch, sponsored this year by HRC Recruitment, takes place to raise funds and build profile, with the support of scores of businesses from different sectors and every corner of Scotland. Of course, we’d like even more to join us on the day. It’s a great networking opportunity too, with names like Deloitte, Standard Life and EY in the room.
It’s encouraging to know that, in spite of a rather rough Youth Index this year, many of the numbers do still add up. Three in four young people supported by the Prince’s Trust move into work, education or training. As a banker by trade, that gives me hope that the graphs are going in the right direction.
l Alisdair Dewar is the chair of the Prince’s Trust Financial & Business Lunch and market leader, Scotland, Adam & Company