Developing the Young Workforce evaluation: evidence synthesis

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

5. Conclusions

This evidence review provided an overview of key DYW initiatives and milestones, and highlighted the successes and remaining challenges within the Scottish skills and education landscape. For the purposes of this evidence review, DYW evidence in six key areas was accessed and reviewed:

  • 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

Overall, the headline target of the programme to reduce youth unemployment (excluding those in full-time education) by 40% by 2021 was achieved, with a decrease of 23,000 (47.8%) since 2014 (Scottish Government, 2021a).

In schools, there were year-on-year increases in the attainment of vocational qualifications at SCQF 5 or above (from 9% in 2014-15 to 17.1% in 2018-19). School staff and DYW stakeholders surveyed and interviewed in 2022 thought that DYW has afforded young people access to a much broader range of work-based learning opportunities. In colleges, there were increases in the number of senior phase pupils who enrolled on, and completed, college courses, and who progressed into positive destinations between 2014 and 2019. In 2019, 86.4% of college leavers who completed a full-time course went into positive destinations and by 2021 this figure was 91% (SFC, 2021).

The provision and uptake of apprenticeship opportunities grew between 2014-19: Foundation Apprenticeship (FA) enrolments increased from 346 in 2016 to 1,535 in 2018, Modern Apprenticeship (MA) enrolments increased from 25,284 in 2013-14 to 26,262 in 2016-17, and the number of Graduate Apprenticeship (GA) starts increased from 277 starts in 2017-18 to 1,160 starts in 2019-20.

Following the development of the national Developing the Young Workforce Group, the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board (SAAB), and the digital matching platform Marketplace, and the establishment of a multitude of regional groups across Scotland, there were improvements in the extent of employer engagement with DYW between 2014 and 2019. All schools had some degree of school-employer partnerships in place by 2018-19.

In support of the DYW equality and inclusion agenda, equality-based apprenticeship action plans and gender action plans were published, and projects to increase under-represented groups’ participation in vocational education and the labour market were introduced. As per the 2017 Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA), the DYW programme had equality impact across most of the 39 recommendations of the DYW Commission.

There were a number of challenges and lessons stemming from the implementation of DYW which call for further attention:

  • In schools, there were some barriers to embracing DYW, such as staff capacity, skills and funding; co-ordination and information management; geography and school type; pupil needs; barriers to partnerships with employers and colleges such as those relating to a lack of employer awareness or buy-in to DYW.
  • In 2021, only 8% of employers provided work placements or work inspiration activities to young people in school, and only 19% of employers offered apprenticeships to young people. The main hindering factors cited by employers with regards to providing such opportunities were: a lack of staff time and opportunity costs; communicating with schools; COVID-19; and negative perceptions of young people.
  • More work is required to meet the DYW equality and inclusion targets. Occupational gender segregation appears to be the most difficult to address: male pupils are much more likely to pursue construction, engineering, and computing careers, whereas female pupils are more likely to pursue creative industries, medicine/health, teaching, hospitality and caring careers.
  • According to the Health Foundation’s 2021 report Not just any job, good jobs! Youth voices from across the UK, the pandemic has affected young people’s confidence (62%) and how they value the quality of work (46%). Most young people are likely to require enhanced support in reaching positive destinations.

How to access background or source data

The data collected for this social research publication may be made available on request, subject to consideration of legal and ethical factors. Please contact for further information.



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