Young Persons Guarantee

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th November 2020.

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Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Sorry about that, Presiding Officer.

As I was saying, the pandemic has clearly hit young people particularly hard through the economic harms resulting from the virus. The impact of the pandemic varies across different parts of the economy, and evidence suggests that it is exacerbating the inequalities that have existed across the labour market for some time. Those on low incomes and insecure contracts, which have been more prevalent among young people, have been the worst affected. We will continue to ensure that fair work principles remain embedded within our approach to delivering the guarantee through our promotion of the living wage and fair work first.

At its heart, the guarantee is about connecting young people with employers and with a range of learning and training opportunities to support them and to help them to progress towards employment. Our intention is that the guarantee should be shaped and led by employers and driven by the needs of young people, and we must deliver it by working in partnership.

I am pleased that, following the publication of his report, Sandy Begbie agreed to continue to work with us on the implementation of his plan for the guarantee. Over the past two months, he has been leading an implementation group, which has now agreed a high-level action plan to deliver the guarantee in a way that addresses the scale and immediacy of the challenge ahead. We will publish that plan today, and work will continue quickly to put it into action. From the beginning, I have been clear that young people must be at the front and centre of this work, and I asked Young Scot to take forward work on how young people could help design the guarantee.

I want all our young people to benefit from the opportunities that are on offer from the guarantee, which will embed an equality and human rights approach into its delivery. Tackling inequalities must be the defining hallmark of the guarantee. Working closely with Close the Gap, Barnardo’s and Enable, we have been engaging with young people to ensure that the guarantee is inclusive by design and is focused on how it will meet their needs. As part of that work, Intercultural Youth Scotland has produced a report on the barriers that young minority ethnic people face in getting access to opportunities. Again, the initial reports from those pieces of work will be published today. The work that Young Scot is developing with us will ensure that a wide and diverse range of young people across the country will have a genuine voice and will be able to contribute directly to how the guarantee evolves over the coming months.

In launching the guarantee today, I want to set out how we intend to support new opportunities. We have committed £60 million this year to deliver the guarantee, and our discussions with delivery partners are being finalised now to ensure that we get the maximum impact. That is additional support on top of the significant investment that is already available for key areas including the apprenticeships and the colleges that will deliver the guarantee.

We will begin by recognising the pivotal role that local government has to play as a key partner, and I am pleased to inform Parliament that we have now agreed the allocation and distribution of the £30 million to fund local partnership activity, which will support around 8,000 young people. A significant part of the funding will be for recruitment incentives, and that will include supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and third sector employers to create more jobs, including apprenticeships. Other priorities will include providing additional support to wrap around kick-start placements, increasing supported employment, skills training and mental health support. The guarantee will also provide key workers for those who need more support.

We are strengthening the network of 21 industry-led developing the young workforce groups by funding school co-ordinators. Building on successful pilots in Glasgow and Fife, that will increase the capacity of schools to support young people in continuing to engage with the DYW programme to make choices that are informed by input from employers. Funding will be made available to support additional opportunities delivered by the third sector, including formal volunteering, with new funding for in-school mentoring offered by MCR Pathways and more career inspiration activity through the Founders4Schools programme. There will also be support for work to incentivise graduate internships.

In recognition of the challenges that are faced by those who might have otherwise gone into apprenticeships, we have set out £10 million to support pathways to apprenticeships, which are aimed at providing education-based opportunities. We continue to work with colleges to support industry-focused further education opportunities for young people. That builds on the funding that we have already agreed to provide to universities to create additional places following this year’s exam results, and recognises the critical role that our universities and colleges have to play in supporting young people.

Overall, that funding will provide a range of opportunities that will make a difference to young people’s lives. However, we have to make connections to employers, so I also announce that we are launching a new web portal, developed with Skills Development Scotland, that will act as the first point of contact for information on the guarantee. The site will put in one place the wide range of opportunities that are being created under the guarantee. It will be an important step forward in providing coherence and signposting young people to jobs and other opportunities, as well as to relevant advice and guidance, which will continue to be offered by local authorities, jobcentres and third sector partners.

We know that we still face significant economic challenges. I understand that many businesses and sectors are under real pressure, but it is clear that many employers want to stand behind and help deliver the guarantee now. As part of our launch activity, this morning I met Capgemini, SSE and NHS Lothian, all of which have signed up as early adopters to the guarantee. They, and many others, are already beginning to create good, fair, sustainable opportunities, and they clearly recognise the value that young people can bring to their organisations.

We have been working closely with businesses on developing a set of asks that are challenging and proportionate to the current situation. The intention is to demonstrate clearly the commitments that employers can make to support young people. I am happy to report that a number of organisations have already set out their intention to become early adopters of the guarantee. From the public sector, it is right that the Scottish Government has committed to the guarantee and is leading the way. I will be working with all public sector bodies to encourage them to stand behind the guarantee. From the private sector, as well as Capgemini and SSE, Scottish Power and Standard Life Aberdeen have given their backing. We will be working hard to encourage many more to follow in the weeks and months ahead. I thank those businesses for their commitment. I assure them that the Scottish Government will work closely with them so that, collectively, we get this right for young people.

The unprecedented scale of the economic challenge has necessitated new approaches. Since the start of the pandemic, I have been clear in my support for some of the actions that the United Kingdom Government has taken. The recent extension of furlough is welcome, even if the manner in which it came about left some questions. However, the scale of the unemployment challenge that we now face is equally important. I urge the UK Government to work in partnership with us to deliver the guarantee, and to go beyond the kick-start scheme to provide a clearer commitment to supporting those whose jobs and livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic.

I have set out the next steps that we will take to deliver a young persons guarantee. I look forward to working with colleagues across Parliament to continue our support for young people throughout the pandemic. I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge, but if we work together as a country, we can deliver for our young people. My message to Scotland’s young people is simple: we are right behind you, we want you to be successful and we will do everything that we can to give you the opportunities that you need.

I will write to all members with more details on the guarantee, including information on the new web platform. I would welcome your support in promoting the guarantee to as many young people and employers as possible.

I am very pleased to come to the chamber today to launch the young persons guarantee. By working in partnership across parties, across the country and across organisations, and by working with employers, the third sector and our great education system, we in Scotland can make sure that, however difficult this year has been, there is a platform and a future for our young people.