It’s no secret that Scotland is experiencing a business boom, and has seen growth in both manufacturing and high-tech industries. But trends like that do not always translate into gains for everyone, especially not for young people seeking employment. That requires a concerted effort whereby schools and employers cooperate to help young people transition more easily into the labour market. In 2014, the Scottish government took on that challenge and launched its Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) to encourage a fairer labour market and to counteract the devastating blow the recession had had on youth employment. Its efforts have worked.
Last year, the Scottish government fulfilled its plan to cut youth unemployment by 40% – four years ahead of schedule. This month, the government released its latest statistics on Scotland’s labour market, showing that this trend has continued: Among those aged 16 to 24, the unemployment rate decreased 4 percentage points further from a year ago to 6.8%. Compare that with its peak in 2012, when the youth unemployment rate in Scotland was over 25%, or to the UK’s current rate of 10.4%, and the magnitude of this feat quickly becomes clear.
Why Scotland decided to tackle youth unemployment
A high rate of youth unemployment has serious economic and social consequences. It is particularly costly: governments end up having to make more welfare payments and miss out on potential tax revenue as a result. It also affects the earning potential of young people in the long-term, making them, in the end, less eligible for credit and have less disposable income. All of this has a very real effect on the growth of the economy as a whole.
What’s behind this continuing trend of decreasing youth unemployment? While the YEI’s greater investment in apprenticeship programmes and higher education opportunities certainly plays an important role, the increasing engagement from businesses is just as significant.
Employer engagement on the ground
The most effective forms of employer engagement include giving young people access to mentorship programmes, real work experience, and work-related learning. Giving advice on CVs, performing mock interviews, and having multiple in-depth discussions on career options are also extremely beneficial—and not just for the pupil. Engagement programmes are one of the surest ways for businesses to recruit, develop, and retain the talent it needs to grow.
While it may at first appear daunting, especially for a small or medium-sized business, to incorporate employer engagement programmes into an already existing business structure, resources abound to help with just that. HR management software programs, like this one for example, make it simple to on board young employees. This way they can feel welcome and valued, and to keep track of their progress, as well as their feedback. Organisations like Investors in Young People (IIYP) help businesses incorporate engagement programmes into their structure, and accredit employers that can demonstrate their commitment to youth employment. Training the talent of the future is now easier than ever.
Benefits of effective employer engagement
Studies show that young adults who had been exposed to four or more employer engagement activities reported earning up to 16.4% more than their peers who had not been exposed to any such activities, and were 86% less likely to spend time as NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training).
Further, employer engagement gave young people greater confidence in their ability to compete in the labour market, making them more likely to do so successfully. Young people not only do better in school as a result of employer engagement, they are also better prepared for what comes next.