Scotland performs strongly on youth employment, compared against both the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union. The latest statistics, which were published by the Office for National Statistics on 16 August and cover April to June 2017, show that Scotland’s youth employment rate is 5.3 percentage points higher than that for the UK as a whole. The most recently available internationally comparable data show that Scotland has the third highest youth employment rate of the 28 EU countries. Scotland’s youth unemployment rate was the third lowest of the 28 EU countries in quarter 2 of 2017, compared with quarter 2 of 2007, when it was the 14th highest.
Each year, over £8 billion is spent in Scotland, between the Scottish Government and its agencies and local government, on all forms and across all stages of learning and training. That ensures that our young people are best placed to take advantage of opportunities in the workforce. The latest annual participation measure report, which was published last month, shows that our policies are working, with 91.1 per cent of 16 to 19-year-olds participating in learning, training or work.
As I have just set out, the labour market is performing well in Scotland, and our focus now is on helping those who face the greatest barriers to work. We are doing that through our youth employment strategy, which is implementing the recommendations of the commission for developing Scotland’s young workforce, and through a range of other measures. For example, since 2011, we have provided the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations with more than £50 million to deliver the community jobs Scotland programme, which has supported more than 7,500 young people into job training opportunities across all 32 local authority areas.
With the aim of providing long-term investment for maximum social return, we have also invested £36.44 million since 2008 in Inspiring Scotland’s 14:19 fund. Working with third sector organisations, that fund has to date supported 27,000 young people into positive destinations. Of course, we continue to support local authorities to deliver activity agreements, which are a key component of the opportunities for all offer. Last year, we saw an increase in progressions from activity agreements to positive destinations.
There are clear positive signs, but all members can be assured that the issue remains an important focus of my work.
First of all, I welcome Mr Halcro Johnston to his role. This is the first opportunity that we have had to interact with each other in that regard.
I have just set out a considerable range of activity that we are undertaking. I of course concede that, given our on-going commitment to the agenda, we need to focus on particular areas relating to youth unemployment, but we are moving in the right direction. We continue to invest significant resource in training objectives. For example, this year we will increase the number of modern apprenticeship places available, with additional revenue going to that.
Despite Mr Halcro Johnston’s failure to welcome where we are right now, he can be reassured that, as I said to all members, the issue remains a considerable focus of my role.