The online consultation explained that young people are less likely to stay in or move to the South of Scotland than they are in other parts of the country. A large majority of respondents, and 21 out of 26 consultation events, discussed issues relating to retaining and attracting young people to the South of Scotland.
Respondents described the importance of keeping young people in the area and encouraging graduates to move back to the South of Scotland. Increasing the availability of various types of opportunities for young people was described as a way to retain young people and increase the appeal of the region. In addition, it was felt that the region should be promoted as an attractive place to live, learn and work for young people.
This chapter outlines views on what the Agency could do to meet the interests of children and young people.
8.1 Education and training
Respondents felt that the provision of local education and training opportunities was important for retaining and attracting young people to the region. Specifically:
- Universities and colleges should offer courses that young people are interested in studying.
- Access to Higher Education should be improved through courses being offered locally or digitally.
- Educational provision should be linked to the needs of employers. It was suggested that the regional skills gaps should be identified and Further and Higher Education institutions should be helped to provide courses which address these gaps.
- Young people should have the opportunity to develop digital and IT skills.
- Courses should provide young people with the skills to work in tourism and the creative industries.
- Local companies should be encouraged to recruit apprentices to support young people into sustainable skilled work.
8.2 Employability and job opportunities
The availability of job opportunities and the provision of support for young people to enter meaningful work were seen to be important in retaining and attracting people to the South of Scotland. Specifically:
- Young people should benefit from improved career guidance and be informed about local opportunities.
- Entrepreneurship and enterprise skills should be encouraged amongst young people.
- School-leavers should be prepared for the world of work, and the Agency's activities should link into the Developing the Young Workforce programme.
- The Agency should encourage businesses to operate in the area to increase the availability of job opportunities for young people.
- There should be a focus on ensuring fair work and pay for young people in employment.
- The Agency should support the development of industries which young people want to work in such as gaming, the cycling or outdoor activity sector and creative industries.
Problems with current transport arrangements were highlighted and several suggested improvements were identified by respondents. For example:
- Lack of suitable transport was seen as a barrier to young people gaining work experience.
- Travel should be more affordable for young people. Travel should be either subsidised or free for those aged up to 21 or 26 years old.
- Public transport should be better timed to suit young people. For example, services should run in the evenings and weekends, and be linked to college start times.
- It was felt to be very challenging for young people to live in the region and commute for university or college studies due to limited transport links. Young people should be helped to commute daily to study in cities.
- Rail, buses and roads were identified as needing improvement.
- Effective transport systems were seen to be important for the social lives of young people, allowing them to be better connected to their peer groups.
8.4 Social and cultural life
Improving the region's offer in terms of its social and cultural activities was discussed in relation to retaining and attracting young people. This included areas such as cinema, theatre, music, retail, sports and night life. It was expressed that youth clubs and activities should receive funding and that the region's countryside should be promoted, for example, mountain biking and adventure sports.
Respondents felt that the availability of affordable and suitable housing for young people should be improved. Young people should have an opportunity to buy rather than rent property. It was suggested that housing could be provided through private development, housing associations, small housing trusts or co-housing initiatives.
8.6 Internet and connectivity
Improvements to digital connectivity through high speed broadband were seen to be important for both business health and retaining young people in the area. Lack of mobile connectivity was seen as a factor which was contributing to young people leaving the South of Scotland. It was felt that good digital services would increase the attractiveness of living in the South of Scotland for young people due to this group's extensive use of online technology.
8.7 Support for families
There should be a focus on making the South of Scotland an attractive place to raise a family. Support for young families could include affordable and high quality nurseries, education, housing and playgrounds. In addition, it was suggested that childcare options such as childminding should be funded or supported.
8.8 Engaging with young people
Overall, the importance of the Agency engaging directly and indirectly with young people was emphasised. It was felt that youth perspectives should feature in plans for developing the Agency and that they should be involved in decision-making. Specifically:
- The Agency should not make assumptions and should ask young people directly about their views and reasons for leaving the area by going into schools, local youth groups or conducting a survey.
- Social media was identified as a possible mechanism for engaging with young people.
- Young people should be encouraged to develop ideas for projects that they want to see implemented.
- The Agency should be inclusive and incorporate the views of unemployed and LGBT young people.
- The Agency could interact with youth workers who understand the needs of young people and can be a voice for them.