(Sarah Dougal – Apprentice, Bright Futures Programme)
On the 7th of March my fellow apprentices and I presented separately to three Bright Purple People; Marielle Tweedie, Neil Lafferty and Derek Gibb. We had to sell ourselves and describe why we were Bright Purple! The winners gained places at different employment conventions and I was lucky enough to impress and gain a place at the National Convention on Youth Employment.
The convention took place on the 15th March at Dundee College and it has filled me with a lot of brand new knowledge and understanding of the topic ‘Youth Employment’.
I am enormously thankful that I was given this opportunity as it is a topic I feel incredibly strongly about considering 102,000 16 to 24 year-olds in Scotland were unemployed from October to December 2011.
This is a horrifying figure considering how hard these youngsters try to get a job but are stopped before they even get started, as they don’t have enough ‘experience’. My question was “How is the youth of today supposed to get experience if employers don’t give them the chance to gain it?”
Throughout the day we were presented with speeches from many powerful people such as; Michael Moore and Ian Duncan Smith (MP’s), John Swinney and Angela Constance (MSP’s) and Charlie Mayfield (Chairman of John Lewis).
Each of them presented us with facts and figures and ways in which they are trying to resolve and improve the current trend. Michael Moore went on to explain that himself and Ian Duncan Smith have been working together to lower youth unemployment, as he feels that by working together we can gain more. He also went on to tell us that there is a money incentive for employers to take on youths for work placements and money off railway travel for youngsters as well.
Ian Duncan Smith, sympathetically, went on to acknowledge that the unemployment rate is down at its lowest on record since 1992, however he explained to us that most of the youth which are included in these rates are in full education, which perhaps takes the edge off of the shocking first impression. He also went on to describe work experience schemes that take on people on jobseekers allowance. 34,000 people have taken part, with 50% coming off benefits after just 13 weeks, which I feel is fantastic and hope it continues!
Angela Constance, MSP and Minister for Youth Unemployment, came across as understanding when explaining that young people are hit the hardest when the economy is weak, but feels it is important that young Scots get the best start to life which I fully agree with, as unemployment can scar and knock the confidence out of a teenager. Angela not only has a programme kick started which provides opportunities for all, she is also committed to helping disadvantaged young Scots.
In the second part of the day we were greeted by people such as Helena Craw, Pamela Smith and Danny Logue who presented to us from the local and delivery perspective. We also had a presentation from Christina Potter who is the Principle of Dundee College and went on to explain how the college help boosts the youngsters CV’s by providing them with experience, certificates and many different things which she feels gives them ‘the edge’. Christina’s speech came across extremely promising and hopefully which show results soon.
My day at Dundee College was extremely beneficial and faced with the facts gave me the drive to want to make a difference. Each of the speakers described positive and fantastic ways to help improve the current trend of youth unemployment. Therefore, they can most definitely talk the talk, but here’s my question “can they actually walk the walk?”
As with many of the Government initiatives there are lots of statistics thrown at us, there are lots of promises of change for the better and then lots of old people telling youngsters, don’t worry we are fixing it for you. So here’s something for you to consider:
Dear Government, do you want a future workforce that believes in your policies and also believes that you do have their best interests at heart, do you want them to be engaged? If the answer is yes, stop talking, take action and fix it. I think we are all fed up listening to you tell us it’ll be fine – what about those young people who can’t get a start in life, how long should they listen and wait for that change that we keep hearing is going to happen?
The proof will be in the years to come as youth unemployment figures will hopefully not be at such a horrific high rate. I have been given my chance to get on the ladder to start a successful career, Bright Purple are doing something about it and not just talking shop – so if every UK SME did something, however small, it would go a long way to starting to tackle the disheartening problem our youth of today face.