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Developing the Young Workforce is crucial

By Alison McRae, Senior Director, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce

As the clouds start to descend with across-the-board redundancies now furloughing support is being scaled back, it is fair to say that our young people will be amongst the very worst hit jobs-wise as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Galling for many reasons, but particularly because youth unemployment had just reached its lowest for many years prior to the pandemic.

In Glasgow it was announced pre-Covid that over 94 per cent of young people leaving school were on track for a positive destination – that is they would be going into either a job, education or accredited training. A tremendous result for the city and a testament to the sound partnership working across Glasgow, led by the council’s education department.

Now forecasts are looking grim across the UK, potentially taking us back to some of the worst statistics in the past decades.
So the Chancellor’s most recent announcement of £2 billion for a Kickstarter programme was essential. It will create hundreds of thousands of new, high-quality, fully subsidised jobs for young people aged 16 to 24.

Targeted at those who are claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment it will provide six months of work. This is clearly a welcome move as anything that can be done to help and support these young people is positive.

Could this programme be instrumental in creating a wave of opportunity for an otherwise potentially lost generation? As always the proof will be in the pudding and we do still need to understand how it is going to be rolled out across the UK by the Department of Work and Pensions. However, it is helpful to note there is no cap on the number of roles created so there is undoubtedly an opportunity for Scotland to rise to the occasion to create as wide a range of prospects as possible.

Glasgow is certainly well-positioned to take advantage of this to provide many of these long-term, high-value jobs through our diverse sector base including digital, engineering and in our recently created innovation districts.

The Scottish Government has also announced £100 million of targeted support, and finding ways to maximise and augment all these funds will be an important focus so that the Kickstarters leave the scheme with the best possible prospects.

In the meantime, as always, business has been playing its role.

The Scottish Government-funded and business-driven Developing the Young Workforce programme, chaired by former STV CEO Rob Woodward, has been on the front line, creating a full support programme for our young people including a virtual academy and series of events during July and August.

The DYW Skills Academy will provide a comprehensive range of activities, delivered by businesses, to help young people across Scotland to prepare and support them into employment and apprenticeships. The Scotland’s Biggest Parents Evening events will cover a range of topics such as exams, mental health, apprenticeships, skills development and pathways into industry as well as where to go to help make informed future decisions.

Our business community in Glasgow, including Dell, Jacobs, Royal Bank of Scotland and Scottish Power, is already committed to doing as much as it can by creating opportunities for the next generation to provide virtual work experiences, mock interviews and CV writing – invaluable insights which will support them in their ambitions to get into work. As Woodward observes “most businesses want to do the right thing for young people and work with schools and colleges on delivering skills fit for the future workplace”.

One thing’s for sure, DYW has never been as critical to Scotland’s economic recovery as it is now.