Stuart McMillan: The Venture Trust helps break the cycle of destructive behaviour

Youth unemployment figures in Scotland have dropped significantly over the past few years and a target to cut youth unemployment in Scotland has been met four years ahead of schedule. This is encouraging. However, thousands of young people still remain long-term unemployed because they lack the very basic life skills needed to begin working towards securing and sustaining a job.

Venture Trusts CashBack Change Cycle programme.

Venture Trust Employability Manager Stuart McMillan explains: “Many young adults referred to Venture Trust have come from life circumstances where they are not given the best start. They are often dealing with one or more of the following: poverty, alcohol and drug addiction, poor family relationships, mental health issues, learning and housing issues. The majority also have had little or no work experience.

“There are many agencies getting young people ready for work but most of those young adults already have the soft skills to engage in training or to start working. The people Venture Trust help first require significant investment to achieve greater stability – addressing chaotic or destructive behaviours to become ready for training and employment so that they can sustain a job.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

“Our personal development programme for young people – Inspiring Young Futures – and similar programmes for adults who have also experienced difficult life circumstances, helps participants set out and achieve their goals, grow in confidence and stability. We help participants to work on skills such as establishing trust, personal boundaries, consequential thinking, problem-solving, dealing with challenging situations, and responsibility and accountability. These life skills need to be acquired before long-term unemployment and the issues this brings can be tackled.

Stuart McMillan, Employability Manager, Venture Trust

“For those without the opportunity to escape long-term unemployment, it will be hard to break the cycle of feeling hopeless and overcome issues like depression, financial worries, homelessness, addiction, and involvement with the criminal justice system.”

Evidence shows being unemployed when young leads to a higher likelihood in later life of being impacted in terms of pay, high unemployment, fewer opportunities, and poorer health. David (name has been changed) was 15 when he found himself on the street. He left home to escape the emotional and physical abuse he had suffered at the hands of his family since childhood. He soon became homeless and was unable to complete his school exams.

In 2016, David moved to Glasgow. Still homeless and facing a high risk of social isolation and long-term unemployment, he was referred to Venture Trust’ Inspiring Young Futures programme. The programme, funded by The Big Lottery Fund, Inspiring Scotland, Scottish Children’s Lottery, and several other organisations, is designed for disadvantaged and often vulnerable young people. David’s past had denied him the opportunities or support to gain the necessary life skills, motivation or confidence to embark on further education or training. This led to a cycle of disengagement with the system, and no way of acquiring the skills required to gain employment.

After a few months working with Venture Trust, David felt ready to start thinking about employability courses to help him progress into employment in the future. He took part in a four-week course which covered IT sessions, CV writing, budgeting skills, interview skills, self-presentation skills, and mock interviews. It also included a weekend away with practical work experience.

Stuart McMillan, Employability Manager, Venture Trust

Armed with these skills David progressed to Venture Trust’s CashBack Change Cycle programme. The employability programme is funded by the Scottish Government’s Cashback for Communities which takes funds recovered from the proceeds of crime and invests them to deliver activities and opportunities for disadvantaged young people.

The elements of the programme include employability sessions, bike construction and maintenance including workshop experience and a short wilderness residential that has work-related tasks, and biking. Participants learn about responsibility and getting up to be at a job Monday to Friday. They get to keep the bike they have built and use it for job hunting, accessing services, training, getting to work, and leisure. David is now training to be an outdoor instructor and volunteers with the Bike for Good organisation in Glasgow. Bike for Good and The Bike Station are Venture Trust’s delivery partners for the programme.

Stuart concludes: “Overall, youth unemployment is falling but there is a group of young people who continue to struggle and need support. Venture Trust and our partners help them tap into their potential by giving them the skills to change their lives.”

For more information about Venture Trust’s programmes visit