The Corran Halls in Oban were the venue on Monday 5 November for a national summit on youth employment. Angela Constance MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Youth Employment was the keynote speaker at the event, which highlighted a new youth employment strategy developed by Argyll and Bute Council.
Key business people from Argyll and Bute, community planning partners, further and higher education representatives, training providers, elected members from council and government and young people from the area attended the event, along with delegates from other rural authorities. More than 30 organisations and businesses were represented at the event, which attracted 175 national and local delegates.
An introduction was given by Councillor Louise Glen Lee, Lead Councillor for Community, Culture, Customer and Communication, and the event was chaired by Sam Coley, a young entrepreneur from Dunoon. Councillor Glen Lee highlighted the problem-solving partnerships which are in place to support our young people, and the four key elements of the local strategy for youth employment in Argyll and Bute – empowering people, supporting employers, simplifying the skills system and strengthening partnership and collective responsibility.
The aim of the strategy is to meet the Scottish Government’s ‘Opportunities for All’ policy, which makes a commitment to offering a place in learning or training for every 16-19 year old not currently in employment, education or training. The Argyll and Bute Skills Pipeline and Action Plan has been created to map the paths to resolving the barriers which face young people and employers in achieving that.
The Summit’s keynote address was delivered by Angela Constance MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Youth Employment, who outlined the Government’s commitment to finding solutions to the barriers to employment or training faced by some young people. Ms Constance said that youth unemployment had been aggravated by the recent economic situation - lack of growth in commerce and industry, and competition from older experienced people for jobs, and pointed out that public bodies can lead by example and are playing a crucial role, even in the current circumstances.
Cleland Sneddon, Argyll and Bute Council’s Executive Director for Community Services spoke about the need to overcome the challenges facing an average of 100 of Argyll and Bute’s young people at any one time, who have been unable to engage with education, training or employment. He emphasised the importance of the curriculum for excellence in developing young people’s skills for life, learning and work and highlighted the successes of schools and their partners in Argyll and Bute in offering alternative qualifications as well as SQA qualifications.
Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning welcomed the presence of the proactive employers attending the meeting, which was then addressed by Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment. Mr Lochhead stated that the youth employment debate is taking place across Scotland, and that the rural dimension to that debate is very important. He pointed out that the food and drink sector, which is a very strong sector in Argyll and Bute, is the best performing sector in Scotland today, and may rival the oil and gas industry in future years.
A series of workshops were convened with the aim of developing a set of actions to take forward from the event. A question and answer session followed, with an expert panel which included Richard Lochhead MSP, Angela Constance MSP, Cllr Michael Breslin – Lead Councillor for Education, Anthony Standing Head of Regional Operations (North) with Skills Development Scotland, and Sam Coley, responding to questions which resulted from the workshops and from delegates generally.
Commenting on the success of the event Councillor Michael Breslin, Lead Councillor for Education, said
‘It was good to see so many young people, public bodies, national policy-makers and local businesses coming along and taking the opportunity to share their knowledge and work together to help overcome the challenges facing our young people today.’
The Summit closed with a commitment from Government, Argyll and Bute Council and local businesses to work creatively together to help provide access to opportunity for every young person in the area.
For more information on the event and feedback from the workshops log on to http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/youth-employment