I get so weary of people who complain about ‘today’s young people.’ They say they are all wasters and layabouts, that they don’t have any manners or respect for their elders and betters. They get discarded as some kind of social pariahs. The young people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse don’t fit that model.
I have never found any of those assumptions to be even remotely true. Not just because I am the mother of two sons in this age bracket but more because I have had so much experience of talking to the young folk in this area about their futures, their desires, their views about politics, society and social engagement.
Over the last five years, I have given a huge amount of time and commitment to our young people. Why? It’s obvious. They are the people who will take Scotland forward, who will carve out the skills and brilliance that will continue to getting this country noticed throughout the world. And among them will probably be some new politicians, able to lead the people around Hamilton with innovative, imaginative policies.
You may know that we had Apprenticeship Week recently. Modern Apprenticeships are a great success story for this Scottish Government. We recognised the need to create a real integration between the employers and the potential skills base. Skills Development Scotland (SDS) is experienced and competent in making sure that employers have a real input into dual learning.
In 2008, there were 10,600 apprentices. In 2013, Scotland had some 36,000 in training and the Scottish Government is aiming for 30,000 new starts each year as soon as possible.
The success of the scheme is a push-pull effect between the Scottish Government, SDS and the employers who are actively involved. There are now around 80 different types of apprenticeships available with new areas such as Financial Services and IT developing all the time.
The Scottish Government’s Youth Employment Strategy recognises the importance of integrating the vocational and academic routes and contains key initiatives with this focus.
The figures speak for themselves with 92 per cent of apprentices staying in work once qualified, while 96 per cent of employers say staff who have undertaken the training are more competent. Unlike the rest of the UK, Scottish apprenticeships guarantee a job at the end of training.
In Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, we have above the national average of young people on on to further and higher education. Since this Government took over, positive destinations in the SLC area have gone freom 88.7 per cent to 93 per cent in 2014-15.
I’m proud of that improvement. No school leaver should end up as a NEET – not in employment, education or training – and they won’t on my watch!
Just in the last few weeks, I’ve been meeting up with successful NHS procurement apprentices who love what they’re doing and with apprentices at the Scottish Gas Academy who are carving out a future for themselves. I am really encouraged and enthused by them. They’re committed and serious about what they’re doing and I wish them all the very best. I know they will succeed and they have the support to do so.
As well as that, over the last five years, I’ve been running lots of job fairs bringing together employers and potential recruits. I’ve talked to these employers. I’ve learned what they’re looking for and I’ve been working hard to get a match.
Because that’s what Scotland’s economy depends on: employers having the skills they need to develop and grow.