Our young people can do the business

By Alison McRae, Senior Director Glasgow Chamber of Commerce

August is such a significant time for so many of our young people. On the 9th August over 130,000 received their Scottish Qualifications Authority National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher results. This year was particularly significant as it was the first time since 2019 that students were able to sit exams under ‘normal’ conditions.

So much anticipation and expectation go into the build up to this one day and a range of emotions from elation to deflation will be experienced depending on what that text, email or indeed envelope contains.

Responding to this back in 2017, our Developing Young Workforce (DYW) Glasgow team, funded by the Scottish Government and hosted by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, launched the award-winning #nowrongpath campaign. It’s a day celebrating peoples’ varied career journeys and showing our young people that there is no perfect route.

Businesses across Glasgow have been instrumental in making this a success with so many getting involved including SEC, Balfour Beattie, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice and Made Brave alongside all regional DYW groups and our many stakeholders, such as Skills Development Scotland, to make it a national campaign.

Then there are the thousands of individuals who have engaged over the years showcasing their own paths demonstrating just how diverse your career can be and also the many junction choices along the way to help boost the confidence of our young people at this pivotal time. This has included high-profile support from influencer Femi Oluwole, comedians ‘Gary:Tank Commander’ – aka Greg McHugh & Fred Macaulay and also First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

This year, nearly seven thousand #nowrongpath posts generated over 25 million impressions, showing how important it is for these stories to be shared and to encourage these young people that their career will not necessarily be tied to whatever grade they received on the day. Taking a vista across the campaign’s lifespan we now know that over 118m impressions have been created since 2017. All of this with the intention of sharing a common message and providing supportive evidence annually so that our young people believe they have choices.

This year some of the content showed examples from our Step Up Glasgow programme, aimed at school leavers and some of our most disadvantaged young people, talking about their often life changing experiences to their own target audience.

With the schools going back last week across the country DYW is re-engaging again in full in its activities alongside a suite of DYW coordinators inside each secondary school. We are already moving to a more regional approach where DYW Glasgow, DYW Lanarkshire & East Dunbartonshire and DYW West will align to increase strategic partnerships and leverage of opportunities across the wider area. A key element to this transition has been the recent appointment of Marcella Boyle as Executive Director for DYW Glasgow, Lanarkshire & East Dunbartonshire who will bolster these stakeholder engagements.

Of course last week’s news on further hikes in inflation and the ongoing cost of living implications create even more testing times for our businesses which will almost certainly impact on all jobs including ones for our young people.

Amidst this landscape however the business community has demonstrated its support to young people around building careers regardless of their results by sending an open letter giving a commitment to them no matter what their path and reinforcing that this year’s qualifications are valued as much as any other year in recognition of the challenges faced over the last two years. This is reinforced by recent DYW Glasgow data from April to June which showed more than 5000 interactions -a work inspiration activity such as a career talk, work experience or volunteering – have been offered to Glasgow’s young people.

Regardless of the results received- there are always choices available and Glasgow is making definitive inroads to realising its challenging ambition #towardsbetterfutures of 100% positive destinations for all.

This article was first published in The Herald on Wednesday 24 August 2022