Firms can do more to help young people get a start

The Edinburgh Guarantee initiative came into being at the end of 2011. The then City of Edinburgh chief executive, Sue Bruce, engaged the city’s largest employers to understand why the city was the worst performing area in Scotland for getting its school leavers into either training, education, or a job.

Linking young people up with companies and senior managers who work in areas they are directly interested in. Picture: PA

Under the Guarantee, all school leavers have access to at least one of these strands. It recognises that inspiring talent is essential to the future of our economy.

As a result, Edinburgh is now the best performing city region and 17th local authority overall, with an average of 269 school leavers becoming unemployed every year as opposed to 550 two years ago.

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What is particularly inspiring is the engagement of senior players and organisations in a joint goal. Milton Friedman might have seen the business contribution to society as pure profit but the more businesses that get involved in nurturing talent in whatever way (be it mentoring, training, internships) the more the city benefits as a whole.

Battling with youth employment

We are still battling with youth employment issues and we have to wonder why. Perhaps other towns and cities across Scotland or indeed the UK should seriously consider this approach.

The beauty of the Edinburgh Guarantee is it takes a sectorial approach rather than a one size fits all policy.

It links young people up with companies and senior managers who work in areas they are directly interested in. From hospitality to energy, accounting to engineering, to utilities or finance, one thing that all those involved comment on is the access to young, skilled talent who can come into a firm with new ideas and energy.

It is a shame that this isn’t a national scheme and that young people are too easily overlooked in the world of work.

Encouraging new blood into any industry, passing on skills or focusing on areas that are of the greatest need to the economy, can help ensure success in a competitive market alongside future growth and we would urge all businesses to look at how they can get involved with schemes like this.

• David Birrell is chief executive of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce