Sandy Begbie: Employers should tap into our talented youth

Understanding the needs of school leavers is vital. File picture: Stuart Cobley
Understanding the needs of school leavers is vital. File picture: Stuart Cobley
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IT’S Responsible Business Week and Sandy Begbie has some ideas to help young people get onto a great career path

With exams just around the corner, senior pupils are contemplating what awaits them after leaving school.

Some will head straight into the world of work by securing a job or an apprenticeship, while others will continue their education at college or university.

Unfortunately, a significant number of young people do none of these. Last year 7.5 per cent of school leavers in Edinburgh, Midlothian and East Lothian did not go on to a so-called positive destination. For them the future is uncertain.

It is essential that we address this challenge and help reduce that figure. Not least because many employers are finding it so difficult to find the right talent to help them compete and grow.

Edinburgh and the Lothians has an unusual labour market. We have a lot of very well paid people working in high quality jobs in the knowledge and qualification-driven sectors. We also have a big service industry, which is often less well paid. But we have a small middle market, where people earn the kind of average to slightly above average salaries.

The issue is clear, as is the solution. Employers – that means organisations and business of all sizes from all sectors – have to get involved in shaping and recruiting youth talent.

We need to break down the barriers to employment for young people, especially those who are traditionally hard to reach. We need to build greater and better engagement between business and education.

It is essential that the region’s corporate community engages with schools and colleges to better align the supply and demand of skills.

It’s important to acknowledge that many businesses do recognise the benefits of supporting and recruiting young people. At Standard Life we are passionate when it comes to learning about the needs of young people, how we can work with them to improve their understanding of the world of work and create positive, inspiring experiences, along with offering them their first foot on the career ladder through modern apprenticeships and our school leaver internship programmes.

To bridge a gap between employer demand and skills supply, an innovative programme of events is running this week and next week in Edinburgh, Haddington and Newtongrange, bringing businesses that are actively looking to fill apprenticeships and entry level roles face to face with pupils and students who are leaving education and working out their next steps.

These Jobs Roadshows are akin to traditional university milkrounds and see that greater collaboration between industry, education and young people themselves.

There are more than 800 positive destinations on offer. It is fantastic to see such organisations as Scottish Gas, House of Fraser and NHS Lothian getting actively involved.

This is Responsible Business Week, which aims to encourage businesses to share best practice and help make positive change. Working together, we can all help to do just that. By opening up quality job opportunities to more young people and investing in their career development we can successfully stimulate increased growth, productivity and earnings, as well as positively impact social mobility.

Sandy Begbie is chief people officer at Standard Life and chairman of the Edinburgh, Midlothian and East Lothian regional Developing the Young Workforce group.