In One Scotland, our Programme for Government, we set out our vision of - and plan for - achieving a prosperous and fair country, a country which all citizens help to shape. We have made plain that we will work together with Scotland's people to build a society in which everyone can play their full part and share the benefits of success. A critical element of achieving this is in equipping our young people for employment.
Our commitment to improving youth employment in Scotland is not new. This Government responded quickly and effectively to support young people from the start of the global economic downturn, and has successfully implemented a range of ambitious reforms across the education and skills systems.
We should be proud of the record numbers of young people going into education, work or training. And the fact that youth employment in Scotland is on an improving trend is welcome.
Yet, as we continue to emerge from economic recession, it is right that our ambition is to improve youth employment levels beyond where they were pre-2008. This requires a fundamental examination of how we provide, promote, and value a range of learning which leads to a wide variety of jobs. It also means ensuring that all young people, whatever the barriers they face, have fair access to these opportunities.
These were the findings of the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce, chaired by Sir Ian Wood, which we established in January 2013. In reporting their expert review of Scotland's approach to vocational education and youth employment, the Commission laid out a compelling set of challenges to national and local government, to the education and training system, to employers, and indeed to young people themselves and all who support them.
Fundamentally, this is about ensuring a work relevant educational experience for our young people. It is about all of us valuing and understanding what a rich blend of learning, including vocational education, can offer. It is about employers playing an active role, both shaping and benefiting from Scotland's education system by helping to create the talent pool they need and recruiting young employees. Ultimately, it is about the future workforce, our young people, making informed and ambitious choices about jobs and careers, ready to take their place in the world as effective contributors.
The Commission's final report, published in June 2014, coupled stretching ambitions with a realistic blueprint of how to create the changes we need. The positive responses to the report and the consensus around its recommendations have been striking and are immensely encouraging.
Since the summer, Government has embarked on planning a seven year national programme to develop the young workforce. We acted immediately to make clear our level of commitment, and to begin the process of implementing the recommendations in constructive partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and Scotland's education and employer communities. In making available an initial £12m for implementation in 2014-15 and a further £16.6m in the 2015-16 draft budget, we have recognised that, while this effort must ultimately be about whole system response, testing new approaches and building capacity across the system requires investment.
Local government, with its responsibilities for our schools and local economic development, are central to this effort. It is therefore both fitting and significant that implementation of the Commission's recommendations - through our young workforce programme set out later in this document - is a fully collaborative effort. In jointly owning this implementation plan, central and local government are committing to working in tandem in the interests of our young people.
This implementation plan presents the detail of how Curriculum for Excellence, a regionalised college system, a significantly expanded Modern Apprenticeship programme and purposeful employer engagement will be brought together to drive the creation of a world class vocational education offer to sit proudly alongside our world renowned higher education system. And we will align this effort with our approach to widening access to higher education opportunities. Throughout this plan it is clear that success relies on meaningful engagement with Scotland's education and employer communities, many partners across the public sector and, of course, young people themselves, together with those who support and influence them.
Our focus is on creating, promoting and incentivising opportunities that avert the risk of young people becoming unemployed. However this Government will also do all it can to continue to provide targeted individual support to young people who are not in work helping them to be successful in the labour market. We will use whatever new powers are delivered to the Scottish Parliament to create a fairer and more prosperous country for everyone who lives here.
Alongside planning implementation of the Commission's report, we undertook a consultation with partners and stakeholders to review our existing youth employment measures - all of which represented an innovative range of responses to the particular challenges for young people during economic recession. In this strategy, we set out how these measures will evolve to take account of the changing economic context.
This Government's commitment to improving youth employment has always been clear. We now set ourselves the target of reducing 2014 levels of youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021 and we will report annually on progress.
It will benefit all of us to work to create a society with the conditions to eradicate poverty and enable all individuals to fulfil their potential. The synergy between employment in fair work and social mobility is inarguable. And a fair society supports a strong economy. That is why we all have a stake in supporting our young people into the workforce. I take great pride in leading the role which Government will play in this effort.
Roseanna Cunningham MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills & Training