At a time when youth unemployment rates are high, this focus on getting young people into work is important. Latest statistics indicate that while total unemployment nationally fell to 7.2 per cent, the rate for those aged between 16 and 24 is 19.1 per cent.
During an economic recession it is the most vulnerable who suffer the worst and we have a collective responsibility as a society to give them the opportunity to realise their full potential. Most adversely affected by youth unemployment are those young people with learning difficulties and disabilities, as well as those with care experience.
The rewards for getting these young people into work are well worth it, ensuring that they make a positive contribution to society.
While the Scottish Government’s guarantee that all 16 to 19-year-olds will be offered education, training or an apprenticeship, the honest truth is that thousands of disadvantaged young people we work with are simply not in a position to take advantage of the opportunities.
As an example, less than a quarter (23 per cent) of all those aged 16 and over with learning difficulties or disabilities are in employment. However, the rewards of getting these young people – many of whom boast excellent skills – into work are well worth it with higher loyalty and retention rates.
A greater holistic approach combining financial resources as well as targeted support is vital in assisting these individuals to take up employment, as well as while they are in employment. In this respect, we welcome the various initiatives the Scottish Government has embarked on to date.
Such support has the potential to ensure businesses can thrive, especially in the sectors where we are currently facing a skills shortage, and as a coalition we urge Scotland’s employers to play their part, look beyond the label and examine the skills and talents of the individual.
• Stuart Jacob is director of Falkland House School, representing the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition