Mark Scott Award winners break down barriers

AWARDS rebuild sense of self-worth, writes Martin Davidson

Pupils from Redburn School ompleting in a Mark Scott Leadership for Life award project. Picture: John Devlin

In Glasgow earlier this month, we celebrated the achievements of the 206 young people who received their Mark Scott Leadership for Life Award.

With 600 guests in attendance, we were honoured to welcome as speakers Paul Wheelhouse, minister for community safety and legal affairs, and Professor Sir Jim Macdonald, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde. The ceremony was the culmination of six months of learning, planning and working together and a celebration of every award recipient’s commitment, enthusiasm and achievement.

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In 1996, Mark Scott, a Glasgow teenager, was killed in an unprovoked sectarian attack. The tragedy led to the formation of the Mark Scott Foundation, which in conjunction with the Trust developed a six-month leadership programme designed to break down barriers between young people from different communities.

The course, supported by funding from the Scottish Government, trusts, foundations, individuals and businesses, aims to develop attitudes, skills and behaviours that young people need as they prepare to move into work or further education. As part of the award, the youngsters work together on projects within their local communities that will have a lasting impact. Since its inception, over 2,300 young people have participated.

Its continuing relevance is shown by figures published in a 2013 Employers Skills Survey that found only 29 per cent of Scottish employers recruit young education leavers. The main reasons cited were lack of skills (63 per cent) and lack of experience (61 per cent).

In a 2014 CBI survey, employers also identified weaknesses such as lack of self-management and resilience (61 per cent), poor communication skills (52 per cent) and inappropriate attitudes towards work (33 per cent).

The Mark Scott Leadership for Life Award is targeted at young people in their final year of school. They undergo a challenging outdoor adventure residential week, after which they return to school where they embark on a longer-term project for their community.

Research by the trust in a 2014 report looked at the longer-term impact on young people. The key findings of the report, which included participants who have gained the award over the past 13 years, showed that the programme gives them vital life skills which support them in moving into further education or work. It increases their feeling of responsibility towards their community and makes them more likely to get involved in volunteering. Moreover, the research found the experience influences people positively for many years to come.

These results are highly encouraging. All of those surveyed said the experience gave them skills that helped them after leaving school. The key benefits were increased self-confidence and self-belief, an improved ability to interact with others and the ability to be a productive team member. The respondents also reported that the award set them apart from others when being interviewed for jobs or university.

Almost all (97 per cent) said they had gained leadership skills, with 94 per cent reporting increased independence and ability to take responsibility. Importantly, given the aim of the award to bring together young people from different ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds, 87 per cent reported being more tolerant and 89 per cent felt more positive about people from different backgrounds.

So overall, the experience of being involved in planning and delivering a community project was shown to have a positive impact on the participants’ feelings of responsibility towards their community longer term. Most (92 per cent) said they had become more aware of their community and its needs and felt more responsible for it, while 89 per cent said volunteering and community work had become important to them. An amazing 85 per cent of the participants said that the experience continues to influence their lives today. Many reported gaining a host of achievements, which they attribute to their award experience.

For more information about how you or your business can support and assist with the continued growth of the Mark Scott Leadership for Life Award please contact [email protected] or call 0141-413 0244.

• Martin Davidson is Scottish director of the Outward Bound Trust.