Developing the Young Workforce: annual report 2014-15

The first annual report on Scotland's youth employment strategy, setting out progress in year one of implementing the seven-year programme.


Background – the Wood Commission report and Youth Employment Strategy

The independent Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, chaired by Sir Ian Wood, published Education Working for All! in June 2014. The report set out a series of recommendations to help Scotland produce better qualified, work ready young people with skills relevant to modern employment opportunities.

The Scottish Government welcomed their report, accepted their recommendations and published Developing the Young Workforce – Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy in December 2014. This included implementation plans and a performance assessment framework agreed and jointly led with local government. A programme board and National Advisory Group, with members from across the education system and business, provide oversight, challenge and support to this process.

This annual report fulfils Ministers’ commitment to public reporting on progress, setting out the great work underway across Scotland in making meaningful connections between schools, colleges, training providers and employers and creating more and better opportunities for young people.

Economic context

The economic context in relation to employment is a mixed picture. Scotland continues to outperform the UK as a whole on employment, youth employment and female employment rates. However we need to monitor the unemployment rate, and as we move further into implementation we are increasingly targeting structural youth unemployment. The challenge will become more pronounced in the future as we aim to affect the lives of those young people who face the greatest barriers in getting into employment.

Future labour market challenges

In looking ahead, we can anticipate some of the challenges our young people will face. The skills needed for the labour market change, and change quickly, often reflecting the impact of rapid technological advances that earlier generations did not experience. This requires employees who can bring transferable skills to new roles. The need for business to be clear about its skills needs and for education to respond swiftly and meaningfully has never been greater.

Reducing inequality

Sustainable, inclusive economic growth requires means that we must utilise the talents of all our young people. The Commission was clear that economically we could not continue to see a persistent percentage of our young people, particularly those from some vulnerable groups, excluded from training and the workplace. By definition this represents the toughest challenges for developing the young workforce. However we have put in place early measures – in our schools and colleges and through our apprenticeship programme – to ensure all young people consider a full range of careers and training open to them, and are enabled to access them. You can read more about this in the section on equality.

Fair Work

Alongside pursuing these measures to prepare young people for future employment, we are working with employers to help ensure that they can enjoy challenging and fulfilling jobs when they do enter the labour market. This Government is committed to promoting fair work – an essential element of inclusive, sustainable economic growth – and we are using the levers we have to engage with employers in making work places fairer. This includes actions such as the Business Pledge and the establishment of the Fair Work Convention: many employers in Scotland are already actively embracing these challenges and reaping the benefits.

Public sector

The public sector makes a significant contribution to the delivery of the DYW programme, not only as providers of education and other services for young people, but also as large employers in their own right. Working in partnership with Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Government has developed a network for public bodies to support government and public sector collaboration on the implementation of Developing the Young Workforce. The main aims of the group are to:

  • Create more opportunities for work inspiration, work placement and employment for young people in the public sector;
  • Develop a set of key performance measures to capture all activity delivered by public bodies;
  • Provide a forum to identify learning and share best practice;
  • Work with IIP Scotland to encourage Public Bodies to make progress and achieve Investors in Young People accolade.

Developing the Young Workforce: the learner journey

Through Developing the Young Workforce we are expanding high quality, high value opportunities for young people to develop the skills and earn the qualifications required to gain fulfilling employment. These opportunities are principally delivered through our reformed college sector. In order to meet Government’s ambitions to create a modern, skilled workforce and raise attainment levels, we focus on industry recognised qualifications at SCQF level 5 and above.

As the Commission’s report acknowledged, our ambitions are built on strong foundations. Curriculum for Excellence has always been about providing learners with the range of learning pathways that meet their individual needs and aspirations, and prepare them for learning, life and work. From early years onwards, teachers, parents and young people have been developing a strong awareness and understanding of the skills needed to succeed in the workplace and in life.


We want all young people to have the chance to access these new opportunities and be able to progress on from them as part of pathways into further & higher education and employment.

In the 2015 Programme for Government, the First Minister articulated her goal to tackle inequality as early as possible in a young person’s education. The development of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, creating an environment where every child can succeed in school and gain the skills they need for life is supported by an investment of £100m, aims to bring a renewed urgency and priority for everyone in Scottish education to focus relentlessly on narrowing the gap.

A new National Improvement Framework will support the challenge over time through data and evidence. These developments work in tandem with our efforts to ensure young people see the importance of their studies for their own personal development and enjoyment, and in terms of the value they represent to their future working lives.

Colleges, training and skills

The reformed college sector, with its acknowledged existing strong links to local labour markets, is well equipped to share its networks and expertise across the education and training systems. And our successful Modern Apprenticeship programme offers a framework through which new approaches are being tested.

This provision must be responsive to the needs of employers. Scotland’s enterprise agencies have worked together to deliver progress on Skills Investment Plans to map future skills needs. This is a whole Scotland approach, utilising the experience and expertise of partners and stakeholders across the country. Throughout the report, you can read more about the work of our partners with examples of where change has affected individuals and enabled people to work across what have previously been seen as boundaries.

Widening access to university

Our approach through Developing the Young Workforce is to develop and promote a wide range of options for young people to pursue in order to prepare for sustainable and fulfilling jobs. The Government’s ambition is that a child born today in one of our most deprived communities should, by the time he or she leaves school, have the same chance of pursuing the university route as a child born in one of our least deprived communities. The Commission on Widening Access, chaired by Dame Ruth Silver, has produced an interim report which recognises the role Developing the Young Workforce is playing in creating alternative pathways into higher education, amidst a range of wider opportunities.

DYW – progress to date and next steps

In line with the Commission’s proposed approach, Government developed 11 key performance indicators to reflect those areas where we are focusing our efforts in developing the young workforce. These indicators are long-term targets, reflecting the ambitions and lifespan of the programme. The full picture is set out at Annex A. Good progress is being made to date, including towards our overarching target of reducing the level of youth unemployment by 40% by 2021.

The following chapters expand on that progress, set out future plans and examine our priorities as we enter the next phase of implementation. While the report considers the contribution of schools, colleges, apprenticeships, employer engagement and equalities in turn, this is about a joined up, whole system effort and throughout the report there are examples of developments which are relevant across the system.


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