Young People (Employment)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 30th September 2021.

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Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

6. To ask the Scottish Government how it will support young people to find rewarding and sustainable employment. (S6O-00230)

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is taking a range of actions to support young people to achieve their potential. Through our delivery of the young persons guarantee we have invested an additional £130 million, which aims to provide at least 24,000 new and enhanced opportunities for young people who need support to find and sustain employment. We are clear that opportunities that are created through the guarantee must provide fair work and be underpinned by a package of training that supports young people to transition into employment.

Our developing the young workforce activities are well embedded and are being enhanced by nearly 300 DYW school co-ordinators, who play a vital role in increasing opportunities for work-based learning for pupils. In recognition of the importance of good-quality careers advice, former general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Grahame Smith, who is a non-executive director at Skills Development Scotland, is leading a review of the careers service.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

Many of the businesses in my constituency are small and medium-sized enterprises. I would like to encourage more of them to get involved in providing opportunities through the young persons guarantee. Will the minister outline what support we are giving to businesses that are too small to have training or human resources departments to enable them to play their part in the scheme and to unlock the potential of our young people?

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

There is good news in that regard. As part of the young persons guarantee, we are working closely with employers to encourage them to sign up to the five asks, which are proportionate to the size of businesses. Of the businesses that have signed up, more than two thirds are SMEs, which is testament to SMEs’ willingness and commitment to making a difference.

Of course, we want to see more businesses taking part. Developing the young workforce regional groups and local authority employability leads can play important roles. We too, as members of the Scottish Parliament, can play a leadership role in encouraging local employers to do so. I welcome Ms Martin’s commitment in that regard, which is, I am sure, shared by members across the chamber.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

The minister will be aware that, yesterday, figures came out on unemployment among people with disabilities. There are now more people with disabilities unemployed than there were this time last year. The gap between England and Scotland is growing wider in that respect, and a person who is disabled is far less likely to get a job in Scotland than they are to get one down south. Why does the minister think that is happening, and what are he and his Government going to do about it?

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

I am aware of that disappointing trend. As Mr Balfour will probably know, it is the first time in some while that we have moved backwards on the disability employment gap. We will respond—as he, and other members, would rightly expect us to do—by introducing, during the current session of Parliament, Scotland’s first national strategy on transitions to adulthood. We will also implement the Morgan review recommendations on additional support for learning.

Our fair start Scotland programme continues to play a role, and we will continue to work to our disability employment action plan, “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: employment action plan”, which seeks to reduce by at least half the disability employment gap, over the coming two decades.