Stuart Jacob: An apprenticeship can change a person’s life

Apprenticeships can be life changing. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Apprenticeships can be life changing. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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GIVE young people the chance they need to succeed, says Stuart Jacob.

The end of this month marks Scottish Apprenticeship Week (29 February-4 March), celebrating the benefits Modern Apprenticeships bring to businesses, individuals and the economy. It is an ideal opportunity to raise awareness of the merits of a Modern Apprenticeship for both employers and young people. It’s also a chance to highlight the considerable benefits in considering those with Additional Support Needs (ASN) as candidates for such positions and for employment in general.

Additional support for a child or young person may be required if, for example, they have social emotional and behavioural difficulties, learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorder, mental health problems or care experience.

Over 153,000 pupils in Scotland’s schools are classed as having ASN, of which 61 per cent are boys. Those young people with ASN and care experience represent some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised members of our society, with lower educational attainment than those not in this group, impacting on employment opportunities.

School leavers with ASN, for example, are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as those with no ASN. In addition, those with care experience have some of the poorest educational and employment outcomes of any group of young people and are least likely to go into a positive destination after leaving school.

The young people in these categories often face disjointed journeys from school into post-school education and into the world of work, highlighting the need for early intervention and improved transitions into employment.

If we are to deliver sustainable economic growth and create a more equal society it is vital that all those in our society are able to reach their full potential and contribute economically. Without this we are doing not only our young people, but our economy a great disservice.

As a school which deals with boys who have ASN, primarily those with autism spectrum disorder, we offer realistic and everyday experiences which provide the pupils with the skills and resilience needed to meet life’s challenges.

One of our key priorities is to ensure we recognise achievement in the development of skills for work, employability, enterprise and independence.

Transitions are thoughtfully supported and the process of progression from the school starts early. Career advice and work experience is prioritised and tailored to help them realise their potential and focus positively on what they can do to achieve their career aspirations. From the beginning of the placement, pupils are encouraged to consider how their personal interests and abilities can lead to future vocational opportunities.

Kieran presently attends Perth College participating in Level 5 Sports & Fitness. This has followed on from him successfully completing an evening course in Photography followed by Level 4 in Sports & Fitness.

What this all highlights is that educational and employment transition planning for young people should start early, linking with colleges and employers.

As a society, we have a collective responsibility to give the most vulnerable people the chance to realise their potential and fulfil their aspirations. 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. The continued work of the Scottish Government in getting young people into work is to be welcomed. We would encourage employers to give these young people a chance and help their businesses succeed, especially in the sectors where we are currently facing a skills shortage.

As we mark Scottish Apprenticeship Week I would urge Scotland’s businesses to look beyond the label and look at the skills and talents of these individuals and help to get more young people into employment.

• Stuart Jacob, Director of Falkland House School, member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition