Jacqui Hepburn: Councils should do more to help lost generation

WITH youth unemployment on the rise, and 103,000 16 to 24-year-olds currently out of work, the potential for a “lost generation” of young people is self-evident.

As the employers’ voice on skills issues, the publication of our manifesto for the local government elections calls on councils, as major employers, to take on a greater responsibility when it comes to tackling this challenge and for newly elected councillors to ensure addressing youth unemployment is at the very heart of their policy commitments.

Through the Edinburgh Guarantee, City of Edinburgh Council, for example, has offered 50 new apprenticeships at the council and offered 80 new training places and 50 opportunities with council contractors through the use of community benefit clauses.

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This is a start, but with additional support our councils could clearly do more to deliver apprenticeship, vocational training and work-based learning opportunities.

In addition, through the procurement process, councils have significant purchasing power and have an opportunity to stimulate the availability of training opportunities via community benefit clauses, making the creation of such opportunities a specific condition of awarding public contracts.

We also need to ensure the interests of employers are properly met in local decision making when it comes to policies which have an impact on skills and jobs, ensuring that skills provision addresses their changing requirements.

A stronger link between education and business will also assist in ensuring our young people have the necessary skills when it comes to the workplace and that they are also being furnished with the most up to date career information, advice and guidance.

Local authorities have a key role to play in the delivery of a skilled workforce and our manifesto sets out a series of simple measures that can assist in tackling youth unemployment and ensure the delivery of a skilled workforce at the right time, in the right place and in the right numbers.

• Jacqui Hepburn is director of the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils in Scotland