Schools and colleges ‘don’t equip young for work’

Ian Wood. Picture: TSPL
Ian Wood. Picture: TSPL
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SCOTLAND is not preparing or equipping young people for work, according to a commission led by one of Scotland’s top businessmen.

Sir Ian Wood’s commission said youth employment must be cut by almost half by 2020 to boost economic growth.

Schools and employers must work together to provide education that will lead to employment, said his report.

Nearly a fifth (18.8 per cent) of young people are unemployed – higher than many other European countries.

The report said: “There must be much more focus on providing young people with the skills, qualifications and vocational pathways that will lead directly to employment opportunities. It is also clear that employers have lost the habit of employing young people. Only 29 per cent of employers recruit young people from education and only 13 per cent of employers take on apprentices. Business and industry must be encouraged to work together with education and young people, and vice versa, to establish proactive and engaged relationships.”

At the launch of his report at Craigroyston High School in Edinburgh yesterday, Sir Ian said the education system is too focused on the 50 per cent with academic aspirations while the other half get “fill-in things to do” with “no real purpose, fast becoming bored and frustrated”.

Scotland’s “ill-informed culture sees vocational education as a significantly inferior option” to university, he said. He added that colleges have been “re-energised” in the last year as fears over cuts and mergers have receded under new leadership with greater development potential. But there is still “nothing like enough focus on work-based experience”.

Sir Ian, founder of the oil and gas company Wood Group, added: “Of those that go into fourth year at school, about half suddenly find themselves without a pathway and wonder, ‘What am I going to do? I’m not ready to leave school yet’. And generally they were given a lot of fill-in things to do.

“We are now on course for what are called school-college vocational partnerships, so youngsters now have a wide variety of things to do.

“There is no doubt that colleges were feeling it pretty hard last year – they were pretty disenchanted and felt they were facing a lot of change with some of them going through mergers.

“In the space of a year there has been a huge change. I now think colleges are an investable proposition.”

Youth employment secretary Angela Constance said Sir Ian had set out “a challenging programme”. She added: “We have to get away from this notion that vocational education is only for those who perhaps don’t do quite as well in their Highers.

“European countries with successful economies, which despite the economic recession have maintained low levels of youth unemployment, have in common very well established vocational education training.”


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