Business is key in tackling jobs for the young - Liz McAreavey

This month saw thousands of young people in Edinburgh leave school and set out on the rest of their lives.

Monday, 19th July 2021, 7:00 am
Liz McAreavey
Liz McAreavey

Many will be continuing in Further or Higher Education, and others will be participating in Modern Apprenticeships or one of the other programmes designed to help them get into the world of work.

Overall, the rate of unemployment has been broadly stable at a little over 4 per cent since the big bump of last year at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. But the reality is that the thousands who have left school this year, added to the thousands who left school last year, are entering the toughest jobs market our young people have been faced with for many years.

Figures released last month showed that 47,454 pupils left Scottish schools in the summer of 2020.

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Nine months later, the number in employment was down to 21.3 per cent (from 28 per cent the previous year), the lowest figures since records began. Those in “positive destinations” such as Higher or Further Education, in training programmes, voluntary work, or employment was down slightly, to 92.2 per cent.

In the City of Edinburgh the number of benefit claimants in the 16-24 age group has risen by 151 per cent between February 2020 just before the pandemic and May of this year.

Covid 19 affected young people more than any other group in terms of work. Local and National Governments have launched measures to try to tackle what looks certain to become a major problem, with initiatives such as Developing the Young Workforce and KickStart, both of which the Chamber and its members are happy to embrace and support.

But in its latest insight into the state of play in terms of young people and the world of work and how they have been affected by the pandemic, Skills Development Scotland leave little room for doubt at the scale of the challenge.

“The pandemic has exacerbated already existing trends of increasing mental health problems and insecure work amongst young people. In January 2021 nearly one in five 18-24 year olds (19 per cent) who were in work prior to the crisis were no longer working, compared with 4 per cent of 25-54 year olds. In April 2020, 51 per cent of 18-24 year olds had a mental health problem.”

This is a crisis facing our young people – our future, at the end of the day – on a massive scale. It is one that I know businesses will be determined to lean into. Businesses need talented young people

coming through their workforce.

Developing the Young Workforce, which the Chamber helps to deliver in the Edinburgh area, is the Scottish Government’s youth employment strategy designed to operate through employer-led regional groups, bringing together employers and educators in a more integrated, streamlined fashion in the delivery of a raft of initiatives.

From that, the Government has developed the Young Persons Guarantee. This asks employers to come forward to commit to the Guarantee, which in turn is built around five key areas:

 To prepare young people for the world of work

 To help all young people fulfil their potential

 To invest in a skilled workforce

 To create jobs, volunteering and training opportunities

 To create an inclusive and fair workplace

Businesses, many themselves facing existential issues, will want to help and I am certain that many in the Capital will join the Guarantee. But to get most benefit for all our young people, many of our hardest hit sectors will need continued support from government. For example, in Scotland almost 270,000 were still on furlough – with more than half of these coming from the stricken hospitality and retail sectors. Sectors which are traditionally routes into work for many young people.

It is vital that our efforts are aimed at getting all of our young people into good destinations, and those who wish to work should be given the opportunity, whatever their skill levels. At the end of the day, it will be businesses who provide the opportunities – so helping our businesses to help our young people makes perfect sense.