Developing young workforce strategy - impact on employer engagement: evaluation

An independent evaluation of the impact of Developing the Young Workforce Strategy on employer engagement.

Conclusions and recommendations

This section sets out the main findings, issues and lessons learned, which include a summary and conclusion followed by a series of recommendations.

The research has identified nine key themes in terms of the development of successful relationships between employers, schools and young people. These are summarised below:

Strategic level:

  • 1. The role and funding of DYW is still vital
  • 2. Focusing on young people who may be most disadvantaged in the labour market

Regional level:

  • 3. The landscape of support of employers is complex
  • 4. There is a need for a more strategic approach around local labour markets

Schools, employers and DYW Coordinators:

  • 5. Effective action needs effective collaboration between DYW, employers, teachers and parents
  • 6. The quantity and quality of engagements
  • 7. Virtual engagement as part of a wider, hybrid offer
  • 8. Making it easier for employers to engage
  • 9. Supporting and developing continued employer leadership

In this chapter we explore each of these in more depth.

1. The role and funding of DYW is still vital

Our interviews with employers have identified the significance of DYW in helping them to create and sustain engagement with schools and young people. They are clear that, without DYW co-ordination and capacity, there would be much less employer engagement. There has been a view that, with a significant medium to long-term investment, it would be possible to move to a self-sustaining situation and model. This model would embed habits of engagement, with employers developing long-term relationships with schools at a scale which would provide most young people with insights into the world of work.

However, a theme emerging from our interviews has been the fragility of the relationships between employers and schools. Some larger employers have built strong and possibly sustainable relationships with particular schools. However, relationships are often built around particular individuals – both at an employer and at a school (often the Head Teacher) – and when either of these change, this impacts on commitment and practice. The nature of short-term funding of DYW has contributed to this, as has the short-term funding of School Coordinators.

It was also raised that there was not a central place for recording and promoting good practice by DYW School Coordinators, and that they did not necessarily have clear performance targets. These could be used to drive a focus on long-term strategic approaches and meeting employers' preference for higher quality engagements.

Short term focus was also an issue for some employers, particularly among SMEs, and especially at the smaller end of the spectrum. Business leaders may be able to offer support for a time, but the level of this commitment may vary.

The level of commitment can depend on a range of factors, from the demands on the business, to the stage of education of the children, and the quality of the relationship with a key individual at the school. What we have heard is that the situation is a long way from being sustainable without a continued investment in people to co-ordinate and support these relationships.

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.

2. Focusing on equalities, and young people who may be most disadvantaged in the labour market

Most employers were not focusing on young people who may be most disadvantaged in the labour market. In terms of the amount of time and resources required, employers were conscious of getting the most out of their engagement with young people. To get the best return on their investment, some employers felt that focusing more on young people who seemed particularly interested in the kind of work that they did was the better option. This reflects the challenges young disadvantaged people face in engaging with the world of work throughout their education. This may also have been exacerbated by the significant recruitment issues faced by many employers during the research period.

Many employers did express a willingness to engage with young people who were more disadvantaged in the labour market. The scale and range of mentors recruited by MCR Pathways is a good indicator of this willingness. Some employers were keen to do more to support those young people who needed help to enter and thrive in the world of work, but they were not clear about how they could focus their efforts.

Where employers did reflect a focus on equalities and diversity, this often related to the personal experience or interests of key staff in each business. For example, those in STEM industries who wanted to increase their attractiveness to women and girls entering these professions. Others, for example, had a particular interest in supporting care experienced young people, or promoting ethnic diversity. These focuses were generally led by staff within the organisations – more so than by a specific strategic focus by the employer. However, working with employers where they have these particular interests is a key opportunity to increase their workforce diversity and to become more appealing to a wider range of young people. This will them allow a greater number of employers to benefit from a diverse workforce.

There are key ways in which DYW can support this agenda and help businesses. DYW staff receiving training in gender competence, particularly in areas where there is a regional focus on STEM industries, will help with this engagement. In particular, DYW School Coordinators can have a key role in bringing these skills and ways of working to employers, and promoting their support of a wide range of young people.

To promote working with disabled young people, there is likely to be scope to link employers to Disability Confident and workplace funding for adaptations and those who can offer support to these individuals. Recent work by the Scottish Union for Supported Employment (SUSE), through their Apt Public Social Partnership, confirms the willingness of employers to reach out to and engage with disabled young people. This active support is particularly required by smaller businesses who lacked the HR capacity and funding to do this without support, but could provide a highly supportive environment and a wide range of experiences. Some employers also talked about the role that specialised third sector organisations could play in helping employers work effectively with disabled young people.

There is a wider understanding among some employers that being appealing to and supportive of a diverse workforce has benefits to a business. However, not all employers have this concept embedded in their ways of working, and some do not know where the opportunities to do this are. DYW work with employers is just as important to this agenda as working to support more disadvantaged young people directly via schools.

There is also growing evidence that COVID-19 has exacerbated the problems faced by disadvantaged young people in making a successful transition to work. This suggests that it will be important for DYW Regional Groups to at least maintain – and probably strengthen – their focus on these young people. This will mean devoting more time and attention to a relatively small group of young people – but they will be young people who are most in need of this support, and for whom it will make the biggest difference. Supporting links between employers and young people who are least likely to have immersive experiences in sectors of interest is likely to be of substantial benefit to businesses and young people. At the same time, it will be important to maintain some universal offers and respond to the needs of a wide range of employers, many of whom may not be in a strong position to support more disadvantaged young people. This in turn suggests an enhanced focus on DYW Regional Group's disaggregation of their markets in terms of:

  • The young person cohort and the different groups within this in terms of the scale of the barriers they face to achieving a successful transition to work and the value to them of engagement with – and support from – employers.
  • Employers and their ability to provide different types and scales of support over different durations.
  • The matches that can be created between young people and employers' ability and their willingness to support this.

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.

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 a diverse range of young people. This may include training for DYW staff in gender competence, as well as offering training and support for employers to work with a diverse range of young people – including diversity in gender, race, socio-economic background, and disabilities.

3. The landscape of support for employers is complex

Employers reported that they were confused by the current landscape of support to help them engage with young people. Many talked about not knowing where to go for help and suggested that this lack of clarity would be off-putting for non-engaged employers. Employers found it hard to distinguish between the roles of different organisations, for example, SDS, local authorities and DYW, and were confused about the wide range of offers, many of which seemed, to employers, to be similar. The dedicated time that had been created through the DYW School Coordinator posts appeared to be helping some employers make sense of this complexity, but it required the personal attention and knowledge of the DYW School Coordinator to guide them through the different providers and offers.

The evolution of the NOLB approach provides an important opportunity for change. The funding for seven Scottish Government skills and employability programmes is being devolved to local authorities who will work with their Local Employability Partnerships to create a more coherent and comprehensive 'local employability service' which responds to local needs and issues. The initial focus is on joining up services around the needs of clients as well ensuring that they are matched at any time with the most appropriate service on their journey into and through work. However there will be a need to join up the wide range of services which currently engage with employers. The No One Left Behind approach could present both individuals and employers with:

  • A clearer and more coherent array of services.
  • Greater clarity about where to go for support.
  • An opportunity to co-ordinate a 'no wrong door' approach across the different initiatives and providers which can be facilitated by DYW.

There is a wide range of organisations that contact employers. The focus of these engagements range from regulation (such as planning, licensing, and building regulations in terms of the local authority) to support provided by many stakeholders (local authority business development staff, Scottish Enterprise/Highlands and Islands Enterprise/South of Scotland Enterprise, Business Gateway, Skills Development Scotland as well as DYW).

DYW School Coordinators were proving successful at helping individual employers navigate the different offers and make best use of their contribution. However their time is limited compared with the scale of the task, and there is a need for co-ordination at a system level.

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.

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 (See 7). 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.

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 has two components:

  • They were keen to see DYW focus on the key sectors where there were recruitment and skills needs and take forward an approach which focused on the promotion of these sectors and actively engaged with employers in these sectors.
  • They wanted a longer-term approach, with a planned programme of engagement and activities that allowed them to plan ahead and ensure that the value of their contribution was enhanced by its wider context and collaborative working with other similar employers.

Some DYW Regional Groups already do this, for example DYW Glasgow has developed sector initiatives around green jobs, and opportunities in digital, hospitality and construction. These have involved close working relationships between DYW and other partners, particularly the local authority.

It is helpful to place this more focused approach in context. Data show that there are:

  • 2,469 schools in Scotland (Scottish Government, 2021):
    • 2,001 primary schools.
    • 357 secondary schools.
    • 111 special schools.
  • 344,505 private sector businesses (Scottish Government, 2021):
    • Most businesses are small (0-49 employers), which also includes microbusinesses (0-10 employees).
    • 6,220 businesses each employ over 50 people.

Microbusinesses have a significant local presence and FSB research (FSB, 2016). Has shown that they are both keen and able to support young people, and that they tend to under employ young people and, because they may be relatively young business, can be more dynamic, innovative businesses reflecting new growth sectors.

A more strategic approach, building on the insights and intelligence offered by SDS in their Regional and Sector Skills Assessments (SDS, 2022), provides a way of developing a targeted approach to this large number of employers. It also ensures that young people are offered a mix of large or small employers, with a very different set of opportunities and experience, that help them build sustainable careers for the future:

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.

5. The need for effective collaboration between DYW, employers, teachers, and parents

Employers see teachers, parents, and career advisers as having an important influencing role in helping young people to broaden their horizons, think about new and emerging opportunities and alternative routes to work and qualifications. Employers feel that parents, teachers, and career advisers have a vital role to play from the early years at school in challenging stereotypes and normalising alternative routes to and through work.

For employers, one of the main drivers for working in partnership with DYW and those who will influence young people's career choices, such as teachers, parents and career advisors, is access to high quality information about specific labour markets and the opportunities within these. Examples of this includes work by DYW Edinburgh, Midlothian and East Lothian and DYW Glasgow which has drawn on SDS Regional and Sector Skills Assessments and other publications to produce accessible infographics about their local labour markets. These resources are now being used by pupils and those influential to them and are reportedly helpful in creating a common 'mental map' for these markets and the opportunities they provide.

This kind of analysis could form the basis for longer-term strategic plans by DYW and ensure that the contribution of all these stakeholder groups are aligned and based on accurate information around the main labour market opportunities and trends.

The other aspect of this collaboration is the identification of young people who can most benefit from employer engagement, in terms of understanding alternative routes and exploring wider horizons.

The introduction of DYW School Coordinators was widely welcomed as providing the dedicated time needed to support more employers to engage. It was felt that there was scope to help School Coordinators to focus their limited time better by engaging specific employers according to a clear local strategy, in terms of the range of current and emerging opportunities for young people.

DYW School Coordinators are well placed to drive some of this alignment between pupils, teachers, career advisers and employers. We heard from employers and practitioners that the role, and the nature of the relationship between co-ordinators and employers, varies from region to region and is dependent, to some extent on how the role is employed. There could be scope to review the role of DYW School Coordinators on the basis of experience to date.

Interviews with employers highlighted that there is still a stigma among parents and carers and, to some extent teachers, towards work based training. The widespread perception is still that young people should get five Highers and go to university, if they want to get a good job. This does not align with the full range of routes into work that employers accept and does not acknowledge that vocational training can be more suited to some job sectors and career pathways.

The more strategic approach described above could create a clearer context and focus for the work of DYW School Coordinators. Employers and practitioners feel that much of their work around engagement can be short-term and ad hoc, and there is scope to shift from a reactive approach that matches immediate need to a more strategic, long-term approach focused more on the quality of the engagements, as well as supporting collaboration and sharing of labour market information with influencers.

Likewise, working to promote the full range of types of qualifications and educate parents/carers and teachers about the role and importance of non-university routes to work, would further expand this agenda.

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.

6. The quantity and quality of engagements

Our interviews with both employers and practitioners have helped to identify a hierarchy of connected engagements with, and information about, the world of work. Employer engagement is essential to all of these engagements. These include:

  • General information insights and sessions which introduce young people to futures that they may not have considered. There is scope to deliver many of these activities at scale.
  • An opportunity to explore in more depth those jobs and sectors that young people are more interested in. These are likely to involve smaller numbers of young people who are interested in particular jobs and sectors or are keen to know more to help them make up their minds.
  • An immersive experience into particular opportunities either through direct engagement or at a place of work. This is likely to involve one-to-one experiences, perhaps related to the specific situation, interests and needs of a young person.

This description could be used to describe the of experience of the world of work as young people progress through their school years; as a classification of offers to young people; and as a model for a more strategic long-term approach for engagement.

This hierarchy of engagement, shown as a diagram in Figure 1, forms a structure for planning and shaping engagement activities. Employers often feel they get the most value from more intense engagement, such as immersive experiences. However, information events and activities can allow a wider range of employers to engage, as there is generally less time and resource needed to deliver these.

This structure could also be used as part of work to explain to new employers about the types of engagement and levels of involvement, as part of promoting the DYW agenda with a wider range of businesses. It also reflects the structure of engagement over time. More general, informational events can raise awareness of a particular career or sector at primary level, for young people. Whereas, when they get older and start to refine their future ambitions and choose qualifications they want to pursue, more engaging and immersive experiences can help to shape their knowledge and awareness.

Research has shown that there are key ages at which children form ideas and aspirations for future careers. DYW and employers can work to this, to engage with young people at every stage of this process, from career awareness by the age of seven, form these into more realistic ideas, and then further refine these as they get older (McMahon, et al., 2010). DYW School Coordinators and employers can begin to work with young people at primary level of education in order to start raising awareness of a range of careers from an early stage, with light-touch, informational events or activities.

Figure 1 Hierarchy of engagement for young people in employer-led activities
A chart with 'number of people' on the x axis and 'intensity of engagement' on the y axis. The chart shows a line travelling down from the top of the x axis to the furthest point of the y axis, showing that the higher number of people engaged correlates with a lower level of engagement and vice versa. The words 'information', 'exploration' and 'immersion' are along the plotted line, indicating different levels of engagement.

Recommendation 11:

We recommend that DYW and the Scottish Government give greater consideration to more to match 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, level of intensity with the aims for that group of young people, could help to set employer expectations and target activities.

7. Virtual engagement as part of a wider, hybrid offer

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the use of virtual engagement between employers and young people. Employers that did engage chose to do all engagements virtually. This achieved several benefits:

  • The ability to reach a wider range of young people with a presentation or virtual experience. This meant that the reach was much wider, and young people who may not have previously engaged were now able to do so.
  • This particularly benefitted a range of young people: those in rural and remote areas, where there may be a limited range of job opportunities and all employers are SMEs, those who may have found it hard to travel to opportunities pre-COVID, and those who were confined to their home.

However, employers articulated their concern about how hard it was to engage meaningfully with young people virtually and that their preference was for face-to-face, in-person engagement.

There were also some concerns about the impact this would have on disadvantaged groups, further increasing the digital divide. This feedback is complemented by feedback from young people. A 2021 report for DYW on the Impact on Virtual Engagement on Young People (DYW, 2021) demonstrated that online engagement can encourage more employers to volunteer their time, and that online engagement particularly benefits employers and young people living in rural and remote areas who could otherwise not access opportunities. Employer preference is for a hybrid approach to young people engagement which ensures the quality of the experience is maintained for all young people.

Virtual delivery had increased the accessibility of world of work experiences that certain groups might previously have been excluded from, because of their location or backgrounds. In addition, reaching disabled young people or those who have additional support needs was a benefit of virtual delivery. However, most young people preferred face-to-face engagement and believed online support cannot be a substitute for "hands on" experience of the world of work. The report found that both stakeholders and young people agree that virtual experiences should always add value compared to what could be done in-person, enhancing the offer around the world of work. The report also highlighted that the issue of digital exclusion remained significant, despite significant investment in both equipment, skills, and broadband access, a greater focus on virtual engagement would risk excluding many of those who can benefit most from engagement with the world of work.

In terms of the hierarchy of engagement set out earlier:

  • Virtual engagement and experiences can be useful in providing general information insights and sessions which introduce young people to futures that they may not have considered. This would likely be more of a listening exercise for young people rather than an interactive experience where they are able to speak to employers. An employer presentation can reach a wide audience and be recorded for future use. My World of Work uses a wide range of personal presentations for young people, with individuals describing their role, what it involves, and how they reached the position. There does appear to be scope to make more use of virtual engagement across the area of general information and that this would ensure both greater reach and greater efficiency through repeat use of the same material However, it will be important to ensure that where engagement is not interactive, it is still meaningful for young people.
  • Employers felt that there could be value in engaging virtually to help young people explore more interesting opportunities in more depth. Some of the main opportunities relate to sectors and trends that are Scottish wide, so there may be some scope to create more in-depth exploration virtually and achieve greater reach in doing so. These experiences should be more interactive to allow for more meaningful and bespoke experiences for the young people engaging.
  • Employers felt that there was very limited opportunity to provide more immersive experience through virtual means. They wanted to engage personally with young people, and they felt that the virtual equivalent was not as effective in terms of creating an effective working relationship.

Recommendation 12:

We recommend that DYW and 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.

8. Making it easier for employers to engage

Most of the employers who offered a view on the profile of DYW felt that awareness of the brand was not high. This included a small number of employers who were actively engaging with schools but not through DYW and they were not aware of DYW.

Employers felt that DYW, the support it could offer and the opportunities for engagement should be nationally promoted. They felt there should be a common national offer of opportunities that employers could relate to. These should range from one-off short-term offers, which may help to draw employers into a longer-term relationship with a school or a group of young people, through to more substantial offers in terms of work placements and foundation apprenticeships. Some employers referred to the value of a 'map of opportunities' so they could see what would work for them, as well as how to pursue it.

This promotion should make it clearer to employers about where employers can go to support young people and schools, for the different agencies to work closely in partnership to ensure that there was 'no wrong door' and to link together current initiatives (e.g., DYW with Kick Start, ERI, and apprenticeships). There are good examples of this happening but there is scope to make this a more universal approach.

We heard in particular about how hard national employers – with operations in more than one DYW regional area – found it to put together a national approach, and their request for a single point of entry to help in doing this, like that operated, for example, by Jobcentre Plus.

Employers felt there was a need to be clearer about the benefits of engagement – the difference it could make both to young people and employers. And it would help to be clear about the expectations of employers around each opportunity – what exactly would be involved, how much time it might take (realistically) and how long a commitment it may need to be (e.g., one-off, weeks, months, years). Some employers referred to the appeal and impact of stories from other employers about how they had benefitted, and the difference they had seen in the confidence and personal development of a young person. This would help to demystify engagement and reassure employers about the exact extent of their commitment.

Some employers saw involvement as a moral responsibility, or as part of their commitment to their community, but felt that others may need to be incentivised. In other words, they would need to be paid for at least part of the time they devoted to the task. For example, this might be to cover the greater time spent on induction, training, and support costs of employing a young person who is less work ready. However, there was a recognition that a wider use of financial incentives could transform the ethical basis of DYW which focused on the whole community working together to support young people. Some employers did feel that not all incentives needed to be financial with a few suggesting bespoke training or access to data on the young workforce could be helpful to businesses, particularly smaller businesses

Employers described the importance of understanding how they worked – and the need to align this to how schools worked. This included the timing of engagement (for example, not toward the end of the financial year for smaller employers), the need for a lead in time in terms of preparation and ensuring coverage for the staff involved. It would help to have an annual calendar of events and activities at the start of the school year so an employer could plan ahead with the school.

Employers confirmed that it was important to be clear about the purpose of an engagement – in terms of both the benefit to young people and the benefit to them as an employer, in terms of contributing to their CSR goals, succession planning, achieving placements etc. So, it was important to promote the business case and make sure this is clear. The importance of this up-front discussion with an employer was stressed – at the moment some employers said they felt it was ad hoc and it would be more appealing to shift to a more explicit discussion about needs and situation and aspiration over a period of time, leading to a more planned approach.

Employer networks and peer groups were mentioned by a few employers as being beneficial to encouraging and supporting other employers to engage with young people and schools. Examples of this include:

  • Access to case studies and testimonials from other employers who have been involved, with information on challenges and benefits, including expected time and resource commitments.
  • In Peebles, an employer has set up a steering group with other local employers to agree a more strategic and joined-up approach to providing work experienced for local young people. The aim is to help DYW make connections with business and make engagement with schools and young people less ad hoc, developing a planned approach to business and engagement and support other businesses in how they might do this.
  • One employer wants to build up an "ecosystem" of technology organisations across Scotland as a marketing offer to take to universities and colleges to encourage young people to enter the sector.

There is no single action that will change engagement, but we have identified a wide range of activities and actions that will collectively help to draw more employers into some form of engagement:

Recommendation 13:

We recommend that DYW Regional Groups consider the extent to which it may be possible to increase the appeal of engagement locally by:

National promotion of the brand and a core set of engagement opportunities with a clear description of what it would involve for employers in terms of time and effort.

Creating a single point of entry for large employers who have a number of regional sites.

Promotion of the benefits of engagement, using stories of employers' experience in terms of both business benefit and individual impact, ensuring that employers are clear about the purpose of an engagement.

Developing a stronger mutual appreciation of the situation of both employers and schools, to help ensure alignment and realistic expectations and appropriate planning.

Using the employer leadership of DYW to integrate DYW into a wider set of offers for businesses and ensuring that business development and support services are an integrated experience for employers.

Providing appropriate financial support to help employers (particularly smaller businesses) become involved at the more immersive end of the spectrum, for example, like the support provided by ERI.

Leadership in engagement by public sector employers, being exemplars in terms of approach and promoting the benefits of engagement.

Enhancing the appeal of engagement for some employers by creating a more strategic, long-term approach. Associated sector-based projects could provide a framework around which to focus the time and effort of DYW School Coordinators.

Using the opportunity provided by NOLB to drive a more co-ordinated approach to employer engagement around employability and skills in each local authority area.

Drawing on the reach and influence of a range of employer bodies to raise awareness of the appeal and benefits of engagement through DYW.

Working locally to help schools respond to teacher shortages in key employment areas such as IT and technical studies.

9. Supporting and developing employer leadership

The employer leadership of DYW – and its setting within Chambers of Commerce – is a strength. The most successful approaches seek to integrate DYW into a wider set of offers for businesses, with Chambers developing strong working relationships with their local authorities to ensure that what could be a disparate set of business development and support services are experienced by employers as integrated help.

The Glasgow Chamber of Commerce case study shows the value of developing strong working relationships between the DYW team and local authorities in their area, particularly with education and economic development departments. It also indicates the scope for using these relationships to join up initiatives with different funding sources and to identify gaps that can usefully be filled, for example, creating more coherent approaches around digital initiatives or green jobs.

The importance of public sector employers showing leadership and providing exemplars was mentioned by some employers and stakeholders. The public sector makes up by far the greatest proportion of employment in each area of Scotland (22.1% of total employment in Scotland) (Scottish Government, 2022). They, together with the Scottish Government and their agencies, are a critical part of the common endeavour to support young people, and their public service focus means that they are in a strong position to be significant contributors to providing insights into the world of work for young people.

There are some examples of very effective contributions to the agenda by some public sector employers, but it is important that they are all seen to play their role – as leaders, exemplars and innovators. It will remain harder to encourage private sector employers to play their full role if these public sector employers are not seen to be fully playing theirs.

While DYW is still vital in the short term, supporting these larger public sector employers to play their role will be crucial in enabling the Scottish Government and DYW to take a step back in the medium to longer term which will ensure engagement with schools and young people is sustained and bridges the gap between industry and education, and that employers are at the forefront of the solution to supporting Scotland's young people.

In addition, employers could be supported to better understand and plan for future workforce skills needs. While many employers are experienced in workforce planning, planning for the workforce of the future is difficult, and support for employers to do this could be valuable. Given the current pressures on employers, support to ensure they are able to recruit and retain talented employees, and their plans are aligned with the wider plans for the future workforce in their region, would help them to address some of the challenges around recruitment. It may also be necessary to target support for smaller employers, who may have less in-house capacity to do future workforce skills needs planning.

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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