Rob Woodward: Investing Faith in UK's Young Workforce

Rob Woodward: ‘We must put our faith in young people’

Source – The Herald, 24th March 2021

The start of your working life should be an exciting time for any young person.

Beginning your career is a key milestone on the journey into adulthood, and should come filled with possibilities regardless of whether you enter as a school-leaver, an apprentice, or as a college or university graduate.

The Covid-19 pandemic means that many young people are facing far greater uncertainty at this key point in their lives, and it’s vital they are given the support they need to identify career possibilities and fulfil their potential. Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) has been in place since 2014 and has cultivated meaningful relationships between schools and employers right across the country, with 21 DYW regional groups working alongside young people to prepare them for their first steps into the workplace.

Against the background of the pandemic, these links between employers and education have never been more important, and forms a key part of the Young Person’s Guarantee, which aims within two years to give all young people, aged 16 to 24 in Scotland the chance to succeed through the opportunity of a job, apprenticeship, education, training or volunteering.

However, the work of DYW regional groups is not just focused on young people – their remit is to engage with employers, schools and colleges, bridging the gap between young people and the workplace for everyone’s benefit.

Each DYW regional group has a local employer board that directs the group’s work, reflecting the needs of the local labour market and supporting young people as they enter into it.

The employer voice in each of these discussions is crucial – it gives young people the opportunity to engage with employers and helps them cultivate and grow their workforce of the future. Employers can identify potential talent, promote opportunities and recruit foundation, modern and graduate apprentices who could form the backbone of their future workforce.

Included in the Young Person’s Guarantee is support for DYW regional groups which is being used to establish a network of DYW school co-ordinators. They will work within secondary schools to create more opportunities for young people to learn from local employers and to participate in work-based learning, particularly those in the senior phase.

This approach has already been successfully piloted in Glasgow and Fife and helps give young people a better understanding of the world of work, from the opportunities available to them to the range of skills employers look for in their workforce.

DYW school co-ordinators also boost the work of Skills Development Scotland career advisers in schools as they work to help young people to develop the career management skills which will be increasingly vital to them throughout their working lives as they navigate a labour market which is changing at a faster pace.

In addition to this, we also recognise that specialist provision will be needed to support those young people who face additional barriers to entering the labour market, with regional DYW Groups identifying schools that stand to benefit from increased support to reach those furthest away from a positive post-school destination.

For example, we are working with Enable Scotland to support at least 150 young disabled people to enter work, 50 to enter modern apprenticeships and 300 to enter accredited college, university or vocational training.

All of this means that the opportunities for employers to build strong links with schools and young people has never been greater. Despite the impact of Covid-19 it brings real, tangible benefits to business of all sizes whether they are enhancing existing links or creating them for the first time, with regional DYW groups providing the gateway.

A strong recovery from the pandemic requires us to put our faith in our young people. The tools are there for us to do that and all of us will benefit if we do it together.

Rob Woodward is chair of the Developing the Young Workforce national group and is a speaker for Speakers for Schools. Find upcoming broadcasts from our speakers here.