As Sir Ian Wood's Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce highlighted earlier this month, too many young people in Scotland - some 77,000 at the last count - still face unemployment, while a considerable proportion lack the confidence to believe getting a job is an attainable goal for them.
Recent research by The Prince's Trust highlighted some of the complex reasons why the proportion of 16-24-year-olds out of work in Scotland still represents nearly a fifth of the potential young workforce.
The Trust's report, "Abandoned Ambitions? The need to support struggling school leavers", published last month in collaboration with HSBC, showed more than one in three young people in the UK who left school with poor grades, believes they will end up on benefits (34%). The same survey found that those young people with few qualifications are also almost twice as likely as their more academically successful peers to believe that they will "never amount to anything".
This paints a bleak picture for young people across Scotland, leaving us with two choices: either we scratch our heads about youth unemployment, or we accept young people in deprived communities face challenges to attainment that can be overcome with the right interventions.
As the new director for the trust in Scotland, I believe we can do more to help educational underachievers that we work with in school, community and college settings across Scotland. Indeed there is both a moral and economic imperative for the whole of Scotland to do more to ensure young people who are not engaged with education are identified and supported.
Last year a Scottish Parliament inquiry into improving employability heard Scotland's proportion of young people not in education, training or employment was amongst the highest in the OECD and that this figure had remained static broadly since 1996. Meanwhile, MSPs heard the cost of educational underachievement to the Scottish economy is in the region of £1 billion each year.
Those are sobering facts but I am confident we are heading in the right direction in addressing its causes. It is no coincidence recent national progress tackling youth employment has come as huge steps, led by the Scottish Government, have been made to increase the roll-out of interventions that tackle some of most significant underlying causes of underachievement in young people. And we can do more. It's simply a matter of applying the lessons learnt on a more widespread basis.
As Sir Ian Wood's commission suggests, we must refine the training and employability opportunities we offer to Scotland's young learners. It is not about suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach to improving attainment, or about tackling low outcomes in one or more areas. Rather, we must get young people on to the right learning and career development pathways from an early stage so they stay engaged with education up to and beyond the age of 16. Young people need to feel education in school is relevant and worthwhile for them.
Last year, The Prince's Trust worked with more than 6000 young people in Scotland who were not in education, employment or training, helping three out of four into further education, employment or other positive destinations. Our programmes always start with a focus on the personal development of a young person; building and developing those core life skills which are essential for any further journey into employment or education.
In the year ahead, we're committed to offering schools more direct support in providing practical and vocational experiences to young people that will better equip them for the world of work. The Wood Commission reminds us the key to making such opportunities available for more young underachievers is for local authorities, colleges, third sector providers like The Prince's Trust and employers alike to work together.
Only by fostering practical, open working partnerships will we ensure all of Scotland's young people have the opportunities to succeed, regardless of their starting point.
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