THERE is no doubt that Scotland is currently experiencing a period of huge significance in its history, and, like the rest of the UK, the country is seeing its share of hardship during the economic downturn, with UK youth unemployment at 950,000 and rising.
There is talk in the media of a “lost generation”, with young people suffering from low self-esteem, apathy and lack of ambition.
But Scotland also has cause for optimism. Recent figures announced by Angela Constance, youth employment minister, revealed that youth unemployment in Scotland stands at 16.6 per cent, compared with 20.3 per cent in the UK as a whole, with the trend towards more young people in employment.
It is important that all eyes are focused on the way the next generation will cope with the future.
As more jobs become available, how well equipped will young people be to face the changes and challenges of a forward-looking Scotland?
All the evidence points to the crucial role the next generation will play.
The CBI reports, online, that British businesses, and society as a whole, rely for their future on the skills and aptitudes of young people.
Similarly, Dr Paul Sissons of the Work Foundation recently reported that hundreds of thousands of young people in the UK lack the soft skills needed, thus excluding them from the job market. Having lived all my life in Scotland and with a passion for both the outdoors and the development of young people, I have 15 years’ experience with The Outward Bound Trust, starting as an instructor at our Loch Eil centre in the Highlands and progressing to my current role as Scottish director.
With this background, The Outward Bound Trust is launching an inspirational new campaign, aimed specifically at linking businesses with underprivileged young people in Scotland.
The purpose of the Scotland’s Next Generation campaign is to cultivate the younger generation of Scots, equipping them with new skills, ambition and self-belief.
By undertaking a three-week long Classic Adventure course, participants will develop key employability skills, be supported in their path to work or further education, in turn enabling them to become involved more meaningfully in their community – giving something back.
In 2012, 6,500 young people in Scotland benefitted from an Outward Bound course.
Harriet, a 17-year old from Glasgow, was, by her own admission, a typical teen with no ambition or drive. After spending time on a challenging three-week Classic course, she says : “I feel like I could do just about anything now,” and is currently completing her Highers hoping to go to university and work eventually in the outdoors.
Like many young people from less advantaged backgrounds, Harriet’s transformation would not have been possible without sponsorship.
The benefits of Scotland’s Next Generation could be quite profound – but not just for the individual young people taking part.
After years of experience in developing young people, the trust’s evaluation has shown that the skills learned during Outward Bound promote leadership, team work and raise aspiration. So, this campaign will help unlock the untapped and often hidden potential in underprivileged young people that could really help Scotland. In short, it’s an investment in future business communities and in Scotland itself.
In order to fund this new scheme, the trust is seeking “friends” to sponsor individual young people.
In return, for supporting someone through a Classic course, the donor receives a personal letter from the young person and can visit one of the trust’s centres, to meet young people and witness first-hand the impact their sponsorship has made in shaping their future.
But the main benefit comes from witnessing the benefits their support offers a young person and Scotland’s economic recovery.
As Harriet says, “It really has changed my life”. How great to know that there is a real, tangible opportunity for those already successful within Scottish businesses and communities to be involved in such a progressive campaign.
• Martin Davidson, Scottish director for The Outward Bound Trust.
The Outward Bound Trust is an outdoor educational charity which helps young people develop far-reaching key life skills, such as leadership, problem solving, teamwork, communication and confidence, through outdoor learning. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org