Developing young workforce strategy - impact on employer engagement: evaluation
An independent evaluation of the impact of Developing the Young Workforce Strategy on employer engagement.
Aim of the research
The Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Strategy (Scottish Government, 2014) was the Scottish Government's response to the Education Working for All! Report of the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce of 2014. The Strategy set out a seven-year plan to 2021 and built on the recommendations of the report (all of which were accepted by the Scottish Government). It focused on ways of ensuring that young people were more aware of the world of work and the full range of its opportunities, were better able to take informed decisions about their future career, and were better prepared to thrive in the world of work. The DYW Strategy aimed to take a whole system approach to deliver work relevant education for young people. This included implementation plans agreed and jointly led with local government.
The Scottish Government, on behalf of Scottish Ministers, commissioned Rocket Science to undertake an impact evaluation of the employer engagement approaches undertaken in the delivery of the Youth Employment Strategy - Developing Scotland's Young Workforce (2014-2021) (DYW) (Scottish Government, 2014). The purpose of this evaluation will be to inform current and future policy development to engage employers in support of young people's employment and education in Scotland. This will also incorporate an evaluation for the employer engagement approaches used in the delivery of the Young Person's Guarantee (YPG) (2020-2022).
The fieldwork took place between March and September 2022 through online interviews and telephone calls with employers', practitioners and DYW Coordinators.
The findings from our research with employers and practitioners can be broken down into nine themes and within three broad areas of focus; strategic, regional and operational.
At the strategic level:
1. The role and funding of DYW is still vital with employers identifying the significance of DYW school coordination in helping them to create and sustain engagement with schools and young people.
2. Focusing on young people who are most disadvantaged in the labour market. It will be important for DYW Regional Groups to at least maintain – and probably strengthen – their focus on these young people. While employers are willing to engage these groups, the benefits of this engagement and investment need to be made clear to employers, with additional support available.
At the regional level:
3. The landscape of support for employers is complex and most employers did not know who the best organisation to approach is and were confused about the wide range of offers, many of which seemed, to employers, to be similar. The evolution of the No One Left Behind (NOLB) (Scottish Government, 2020) provides an important opportunity for change.
4. There is a need for a more strategic approach around local labour markets. We heard frequently from employers about the need for DYW to take a more strategic, long-term, approach to engagement. This includes a focus on a sector where there are recruitment and skills needs and a longer term approach to plan engagement and activities.
At an operational level:
5. Effective action needs effective collaboration between DYW, employers, teachers and parents. The recent introduction of DYW School Coordinators was widely welcomed as providing the dedicated time needed to help more employers engage. However, it was felt that there was scope to help them focus their limited time to engage specific employers according to a clear local strategy in terms of the range of current and emerging opportunities for young people.
6. The quality and quantity of engagements. Many employers are keen to have a smaller number of high quality or immersive engagements with young people who are interested in their work or sector, rather than providing more general information or engagements with a wider group of young people. They are also keen to start engagement at a younger age.
7. Virtual engagement as part of a wider, hybrid offer should be considered as it saves time for employers, increases reach and provides a wider range of opportunities for young people. However, employers were concerned about the difficulty in engaging meaningfully and their preference was for in-person engagement.
8. Making it easier for employers to engage. Employers talked about better national promotion of DYW and the opportunities for support, clearer evidence of the benefits which they can expect from engagement with schools and young people, having a clear focus of engagement as examples.
9. Supporting and developing employer leadership. The most successful approaches seek to integrate DYW into a wider set of offers for businesses and therefore needs to be seen as a package of support. Public sector employers should also show leadership as exemplars in supporting and recruiting young people.
Strategic level recommendations:
Recommendation 1: We recommend that the Scottish Government establishes a long-term funding stream for DYW, linked to a stronger strategic approach (as described below), which will build confidence in the sustainability of support.
Recommendation 2: We recommend that DYW Regional Groups review the way in which they currently disaggregate their young person and employer markets to identify ways in which they can further strengthen their focus on young people who are likely to be more disadvantaged in the labour market, and especially those who may be at particular risk of not going into a positive destination because of the lasting impact of COVID-19.
Regional level recommendations:
Recommendation 3: We recommend that DYW Regional Groups work together to explore how they can help employers benefit from the specific skills and insights of disabled young people.
Recommendation 4: We recommend that DYW Regional Groups work with their Local Authorities and Local Employability Partnerships to create a more coherent and co-ordinated offer for employers around their support for, recruitment and training of young people.
Delivery level recommendations:
Recommendation 5: We recommend that the Scottish Government support a national promotional campaign to raise awareness of the support available through DYW, and a common core set of services and opportunities. This should clearly outline the advantages of participation for employers.
Recommendation 6: We recommend that this promotional campaign should draw in the full range of national employer organisations so they can work with their membership to enhance awareness of the opportunities and benefits. This could involve Institute of Directors Scotland, CBI Scotland and SCDI, as well as representative sector bodies.
Recommendation 7: Alongside this, we recommend that the DYW Regional Groups work together to identify a core set of services and offers. These can be broadly drawn to ensure that there remains considerable local flexibility to take account of different needs, issues and priorities.
Recommendation 8: We recommend that DYW Regional Groups are encouraged to further strengthen the development of strategic and long-term approaches around particular sectors or groups of young people that clearly link with employer demand and skills needs within regions.
Recommendation 9: We recommend that DYW School Coordinators help their schools put in place engagement plans for the academic year and use these to encourage new offers of support from employers.
Recommendation 10: We recommend that DYW promote their work to parents/carers and teachers, as well as raising awareness of the range of qualifications and routes to work that are valued by employers. This will support the cultural shift away from expecting all young people to get minimum of five 'Higher' qualifications and a university based degree for every job and career type.
Recommendation 11: We recommend that DYW and the Scottish Government give greater consideration to more targeted engagement, from information sessions to immersive experiences and how these link together to provide a more connected and progressive experience of the world of work for young people. Using a hierarchy of engagement, to match level of intensity with the aims for that group of young people, could help to set employer expectations and target activities.
Recommendation 12: We recommend that DYW and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) work closely together to further enhance the digital content available to young people, with the support of the Scottish Government, both in terms of nationally available insights into sectors and roles, and, through building on the current content in My World of Work, with young people talking about their experience of specific roles at work and their routes to these roles.
Recommendation 13: We recommend that DYW Regional Groups consider the extent to which it may be possible to increase the appeal of engagement locally through clearer communication of the benefits to employers, improving support for employers, and tailoring ways of working to suit the local context.
Recommendation 14: We recommend that the Scottish Government review the scale and nature of engagement of public sector employers with schools and young people and identify ways in which they can be helped to play a leading role and be exemplars for other employment sectors.
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