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Government and business must concentrate on young talent

It does look as if the corner has been turned.

Alongside a more positive outlook from the Chancellor in his Budget last week, the Fraser of Allander Institute increased its growth forecast for 2014 by 0.5 percentage points to 2.3%, and Scottish Chambers of Commerce noted in its most recent quarterly survey that manufacturing optimism is at the highest level since 2006 something which matters a great deal to the Glasgow city region.

But there is one aspect of our economic performance to which business in Glasgow pays special attention. The most recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics puts youth unemployment in Scotland at around 20%. Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and its Glasgow Employer Board set up an 18 strong Youth Employment Action Group (YEAG) to examine what more could be done to help get that rate down.

Companies large and small, including the Weir Group, Boots, Microsoft, Marriot, Laing O'Rourke, Two Fat Ladies restaurant group and GTG training specialists, spent more than a year investigating what was already being done - there is a lot - and what would help employers bring more young people into the labour force.

YEAG reported in February and here is some of what they said.

Growing job opportunities does come first. There is a need for new jobs to access in the first place.

They called for a single point of information for employers to steer businesses through the wide variety of genuinely worthwhile public initiatives. Small companies especially find it difficult to grasp the help available to take on young people.

They argued for a business-endorsed framework owned by the city's education service to help every secondary school strike up a formal partnership with a business. That is something Glasgow City Council responded to very quickly and is now well underway.

They argued for the development of sector specific 'centres of knowledge excellence' within schools focused on industries set for job growth so schools across the city could access the best information. Engineering is widely viewed as the best sector to start with given our acute shortage of engineering skills.

They supported Skills Development Scotland's ideas of a hybrid model combining traditional further and higher education with intensive work-based learning, and they wanted to see a city-wide plan for improving the impact of existing work experience programmes for schools, colleges and universities.

Apprenticeships are widely valued and their importance should continue to grow.

But above all, what comes through from the report is the willingness of employers to try new ways to develop young talent. The economy is growing again, but we must make sure the benefits get to the young first.

Stuart Patrick is chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce

Contextual targeting label: 
Business

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