Further Education Students with Learning Difficulties (Employment)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd May 2013.

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Photo of John Pentland John Pentland Labour

7. To ask the Scottish Government how many further education students with learning difficulties have taken up supported employment after completing their courses, in each of the last three years. (S4O-02141)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Information on leaver destinations of further education students is not currently collected. However, we want to ensure that, with the right support, disabled people are able to find fulfilling jobs that are suitable to their skills and experience.

We are currently working with the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability and Enable to develop a programme to build on the success of their project search and their transitions into employment programmes to increase the number of students with learning disabilities who move from our colleges into employment by 200 per year.

We are also working closely with local authorities and the Scottish Union of Supported Employment to promote supported employment opportunities, where disabled people can learn on the job with support from colleagues and a job coach.

Photo of John Pentland John Pentland Labour

I thank the cabinet secretary for that “kind of” answer. Again, he failed to answer the question with any figures.

Will the learning disability strategy—the launch of which I understand has now been put back a couple of weeks until 13 June—make more supported employment available for people with learning disabilities after they leave college? Will there be measures in the strategy to address that?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

As I said to John Pentland, we are currently working with the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability and Enable to develop a programme to build on the success of their project search and their transition to employment programmes in order to increase by 200 a year the number of students with learning disabilities who move from colleges into employment. There is a number attached to that; there are existing projects attached to that and there are bodies attached to that.

I have met representatives of those bodies on two occasions recently, and I continue to meet them regularly and to talk to them about what more we can do to support their work. That is a positive set of discussions. I have been to the cross-party group on learning disability and I have had conversations with its members to ensure that there is satisfaction about what is taking place.

If John Pentland wishes to see me about the matter, we can have conversations, too. All the things that I mentioned are actually happening.

Photo of Clare Adamson Clare Adamson Scottish National Party

Can the cabinet secretary outline how the recently launched certificate of work readiness will help more young people into employment?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

The certificate of work readiness is a very positive step forward. It is an employer-assessed work-based qualification to help young people to prove that they are ready for work. That includes young people such as the 17-year-old Fife teenager Nico Hutchison who, after completing the certificate for work readiness with a local electronics firm, secured a two-year apprenticeship with the company.

Numerous employer surveys show that one of the biggest barriers that face young people in today’s challenging labour market is lack of experience. With its employer-assessed work-experience placement, the certificate is a meaningful qualification, which employers recognise and trust. Successful completion gives young people the chance to prove that they have the skills and experience that employers want. That is a very useful and positive step forward, not just for the system but for each young person who is involved.