I was at an all-time low in my life and I needed support to get back on track.
The same uncertainty and concerns I faced a decade ago still impact young people – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds – in Scotland. Youth unemployment figures in Scotland have dropped significantly over the past few years but currently there are about 4,000 16-24-year-olds who have been unemployed for 12 months or more. They are essentially missing from our workforce and missing out on all the upsides of having a job – money in your pocket, being part of a team, making a contribution.
Today I am the employability programme and delivery co-ordinator for the Scottish charity Venture Trust. My path back to work and a happier and more positive future started with a government-funded employability programme. The programme was a significant factor in my own personal career development and success.
Having spent the largest part of my career working in the employability and third sector world, I have seen first-hand the challenges that young people face but also how charities and social enterprises are really able to assist with these challenges and empower young people to realise their potential and achieve great things, from further training, to college, employment and apprenticeships.
Venture Trust and other organisations play a crucial and valuable role in making sure every young person in Scotland, no matter their background, can reach their full potential.
Our priority is that employers see the potential in people for their organisation. Working together we will create opportunities for individuals to experience work and be ready to contribute and learn. We can reduce stigma for individuals with previous convictions by encouraging employers to offer interviews based on potential and when an estimated one-in-ten people have a criminal record we need to find ways to focus on the future rather than the past. We believe support for employability skills, finding work and employment should reflect the foundations some people need to build. This takes time and is vital for sustained positive progressions and to build a decent standard of living.
The need for employability programmes and training is broad and not limited to only young people who may have left school early, struggled with behavioural issues or dropped out of college. They can also be invaluable for someone who experiences a similar situation to that in which I found myself.
The employability scheme I was offered and took up was designed to offer me a six-month employment opportunity that would ultimately help me then progress into permanent employment elsewhere. Through this six-month employment I gained many new skills and saw my own confidence and abilities grow rapidly, enabling me to tackle new challenges and push my own development and potential. That six months turned into permanent employment and I remained with that company for nearly six years, moving into roles that enabled me to work on upskilling and helping others, letting them realise their own potential the exact same way that had worked for me.
In a world where it is easy for young people to become overwhelmed with choices, possibilities and career concerns, organisations like Venture Trust support young people to focus on what they want. This includes creating relevant action plans, breaking down career jargon and working with them one-to-one and in small groups to achieve the goals they will ultimately identify for themselves.
Scotland has a robust network of employability providers and services and through continued partnerships and co-operation, those individuals furthest away from the labour market can be supported so their needs are met; from career choices and confidence building to work experience and qualification attainment.
Our goal should be that everyone who wants to work can access support to achieve their goals – for me it was confidence, a sense of purpose rather than worry and being stuck on benefits. The wider win for Scotland is investing in holistic support to tackle inequalities and barriers so more people can get into work and stay in work for a decent standard of living for the long term.
Fraser Taylor is the Employability Team Co-ordinator for Scottish Charity Venture Trust.
Find out more at: www.venturetrust.org.uk