Developing the Young Workforce evaluation: evidence synthesis

An evidence synthesis on Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) strategy.

2. Introduction

This evidence review provides an evaluative summary of the evidence collected over the seven-year duration of Developing the Young Workforce programme (2014-2021) for the purposes of analysing the evidence base on DYW activity undertaken over the course of the programme. The review identifies good practice examples and service delivery lessons arising from DYW activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. This evidence review has been carried out by the Scottish Government as part of a broader evaluation of DYW, and is being published in conjunction with two independent evaluations of the DYW education stream and employers stream.

This report begins with an overview of the DYW programme and its objectives, followed by a description of the methodological approach of the evidence review. DYW evidence is reviewed, focussing on six key areas:

  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Work-relevant learning in schools and colleges, and across ages 3-18
  • Apprenticeships (Foundation, Graduate and Modern)
  • Employers
  • Equality and inclusion
  • COVID-19 and DYW-related activity 2019-2021

The report concludes with a discussion of the lessons learnt from the reviewed evidence, and a synthesis of the challenges, recommendations and future visions laid out in recently published DYW policy documents.

2.1 Overview of the DYW programme

Developing the Young Workforce programme (DYW) embodies the Scottish Government’s vision for improving youth employment levels in Scotland, ensuring a work-relevant educational experience for all young people that enables them to progress into positive destinations. In 2014, the independent Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, chaired by Sir Ian Wood, published “Education working for all!”. It made 39 recommendations aimed at creating a world-class vocational education system in Scotland. The Scottish Government welcomed the report, accepted all of the recommendations, and in response published Developing the Young Workforce: Scotland's youth employment strategy (2014).

The DYW youth employment strategy set out a series of recommendations to help Scotland produce better qualified, work-ready young people with skills relevant to modern employment opportunities. It included implementation plans and a performance assessment framework agreed and jointly led with local government. A significant challenge laid out in the Commission’s report was the need to maximise the contribution of all young people in the world of work. Ambitious targets were set to improve outcomes for under-represented groups and those who face additional barriers to the world of work.

DYW supports the Scottish Government’s ambition for a world-class system of vocational education, in which schools, colleges, training providers and employers work together to deliver learning that is directly relevant to the world of work, and which develops structured vocational pathways to support young people into sustained and successful careers. The remit of DYW includes the provision of career information and guidance, work placements and work inspiration activities, and the delivery of a curriculum that is responsive to learners’ preferences and labour market needs.

The DYW Programme Board and the National Advisory Group, with members from across the education system and business, oversee DYW implementation. The DYW Programme is managed by the Scottish Government and is accountable to Scottish Ministers, and the partnership between national and local government is monitored and developed through the National Advisory Group.

In October 2019, the DYW programme was awarded the Silver Future Policy Award by the World Future Council. The award, in partnership with UN Agencies and the Inter-parliamentary Union, acknowledges policies that create better living conditions for current and future generations.

2.2 DYW objectives

DYW objectives set the ambitions for the programme and the criteria against which progress would be recorded. The headline target of the DYW programme was to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021. A set of 11 Key Performance Indicators were also set in 2014.

Annual milestones and progress reports were organised around five key change themes:

  • Schools: create school curricula that are industry-focussed and influenced, and develop clearer vocational pathways which lead to industry-recognised qualifications
  • Colleges: create a college system focussed on employability and respond to skills needs at the regional and national level
  • Apprenticeships: ensure apprenticeship opportunities for young people to support the achievement of qualifications up to and including degree level while in work
  • Employers: build a network of employer hubs supporting partnerships with schools, and offer a wider range of apprenticeships and investment in young people
  • Equalities: advance equalities within Scottish education and youth employment by addressing under-representation within vocational education, with particular emphasis on gender, ethnicity, disability and care leavers.



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