Issue 6

SECURING FUTURES FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE

By David Cameron, Head of Careers Management Skills, Skills Development Scotland

Skills Development Scotland has been increasingly determined to meet the challenges of securing futures for our young people and ensuring that we are doing all that we can to meet the needs and demands of a changing employment situation. The two are, obviously closely linked. If we want to give our young people the best possible opportunities to find employment, we need to target the areas of demand.

Sometimes this means changing the ambitions that they commonly have. We know that industries involving science, technology, engineering and maths are vital to our economy and need workers, but we also know that many of our young people have not made choices, in terms of interests or subjects, that would lead them in these directions. We believe that we can affect this through earlier involvement between education and employment. We know that young people are strongly influenced by this sort of engagement. The Institute of Effective Education recently identified early engagement with work as having a positive impact on learners’ attainment in a more general sense.

there is a well-established Catch 22 where it is harder to get into employment without experience and impossible to gain experience without being able to get into employment

We have examples of very good practice in Scotland – a theme that I will return to later – including the links with Lifescan and neighbouring schools in and around Inverness. We know what the impact can be.

We also know that there is a well-established Catch 22 where it is harder to get into employment without experience and impossible to gain experience without being able to get into employment. We would hope that we can go some way to addressing this by offering more imaginative work experience to learners and further strengthening modern apprenticeships. We are currently considering how we can bring work and learning even closer and hope to be working closely with partners on that over the summer.

Finally, we know that we must respond to the criticisms that have been made that too many young people are not ready for employment. Regardless of how justified these criticisms may be, we cannot ignore them. We have made significant strides through the Certificate of Work Readiness. This is a really exciting innovation, involving employers directly in the assessment process and therefore gives them a tremendous opportunity to set standards. It allows them to be part of the solution to the problem that they have played a significant role in identifying. It also provides yet another example of the massive potential of partnership working, bringing together, as it does, employers, Skills Development Scotland, schools and the SQA. That sort of partnership needs to be at the heart of further developments.

If we want young people to be ready for work, we need to give them the chance to develop the skills, attitudes and attributes that this requires.

If we want young people to be ready for work, we need to give them the chance to develop the skills, attitudes and attributes that this requires. All of these will be best developed if they get the opportunity to encounter the expectations that they will be expected to satisfy. They will be taken most seriously when they are encountered in context and made real and relevant.

For all of these reasons, SDS is working to strengthen education/employment links. This is a priority for the Scottish Government and one that is shared by all political parties. One of our approaches has been to begin work to generate a framework that would support greater consistency in practice across Scotland. This is absolutely the right approach, as we know that we do not need to invent new initiatives. We have many that would be the envy of other countries in the world. What we lack is consistency and a framework would help greatly in addressing that.

We organised an initial seminar to explore this. We drew on colleagues who had been heavily involved in the area and had direct experience of many of the best approaches in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom as well as a very good working knowledge of the international scene. Using this and the work that we have done directly through SDS, we have begun to create a picture of “what great looks like in education/employment links.”

we have begun to create a picture of “what great looks like in education/employment links.”

Even at this stage, we have been able to identify what seem to be the essential elements in forging effective partnerships. We aimed to support this by cataloguing the current position across Scotland. To do this as objectively as possible we have been working with a highly experienced colleague from one of the Local Authorities. He has been very quick to engage with all of the other Local Authorities to give us exactly the sort of overview that we need.

What is very apparent, as observed earlier, is the extent and also the variety of excellent work. There are thriving local partnerships and wonderful examples of innovative approaches. We have the sort of diversity that will allow us to learn from our own experience. We can readily identify approaches that work in the Scottish context, but we don’t see them everywhere.

We are not arguing for uniformity. That would deny the variety that exists in local labour markets and the important differences in geographies, cultures and traditions. We are arguing for entitlement. Every young person needs the most appropriate and effective support to make him or her ready for employment and to make a successful transition into work. Our plan is to finalise the Framework early in the summer and then to consult on it with employers representatives, colleagues from Local Authorities and other appropriate partners. Our hope would be to have a joint event to assist this early in the Autumn. This would not only help to shape the Framework, it would also promote the sort of consistency that we seek by raising awareness of what is already working. This would then be followed by a major event to launch the finalised Framework later in the Autumn.

It is a considerable ambition, but if we can achieve it, it could give Scotland a leading position in supporting young people into sustained and successful destinations s they move on from school. That would be a tremendous prize.

By David Cameron, Head of Careers Management Skills, Skills Development Scotland

Issue 6

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