Answer to youth unemployment? A commission.

Youth unemployment is the greatest problem Scotland – and the entire UK – faces.

The Scottish Government announced today [21st January] that Aberdeen’s former leading oil industry figure, Sir Ian Wood, is to lead a commission on developing Scotland’s young workforce.

Sir Ian, with experts from business, further education, schools and trade union backgrounds, will work with the Scottish Government to improve the readiness of young people for work.

The new Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, led by Sir Ian, the former Chair of oil services company, The Wood Group, is to examine the links between Curriculum for Excellence, Post 16 education and employers.

The Commission’s members include Sir Willie Haughey, Grahame Smith from the STUC, Michael David from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and Linda McKay from Forth Valley College and representatives from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

They will look at routes into work after school and the success of programmes such as modern apprenticeships before making recommendations to enhance the current reform programmes next year.

Sir Ian Wood says: ‘The worst experience a young person leaving school can have is to suddenly find the world out there doesn’t want them and thus it becomes a significant social as well as economic problem.

‘Through the work of the Commission, we hope to make a substantial difference to how school leavers can access training opportunities and ensure that training equips them with the skills they really need.

‘We will be examining everything from the senior phase at school, careers advice, further education and how employers are joined up with the training process.

‘We will bring forward clear recommendations next year on how to improve work-readiness, training, quality and employability of Scotland’s young workforce with a substantial increase in demand for their skills.’

Minister for Youth Employment Angela Constance says: ‘We want to emulate the labour markets of the best performing European countries and to do that we need a modern, responsive and valued system for vocational training across the country.

‘The Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce will explore how Scotland’s training system can be even better linked with Curriculum for Excellence, further education and labour market need, to truly address youth unemployment.

‘It will be important that the Commission engages with a wide range of stakeholders. In particular, the Scottish Government will consider its recommendations and their implementation in partnership with COSLA, given local authorities’ critical role in this agenda.’

Doubts and concerns

The issue of youth unemployment is profoundly serious. We are unconvinced that the appointment of yet another commission is even the right way to start addressing this problem, never mind expecting that it will achieve anything substantial.

We note that the lifespan of this commission has not yet been set. It has no reporting date.

This detail establishes most clearly how the government perceives the contribution of a commission. It is extraordinary for a government to announce a commission with  no indication of its timeframe.

This looks very like a government wishing to be seen to be doing something about an issue which is beyond its conceptual reach; and is taking the traditional escape route of setting on a commission.

Moreover, the outline brief given to the commission is adrift of where it needs to be in several key respects. Sacred cows are always a mistake – and the biggest of these here is the Curriculum for Excellence which, instead of being open to interrogation by the commission as to its effectiveness, is enshrined as a fixture around which the commission will shuffle the other pieces on the board.

Sir Ian goes on to claim something that has to be beyond claiming,  saying: ”We will bring forward clear recommendations next year on how to improve work-readiness, training, quality and employability of Scotland’s young workforce with a substantial increase in demand for their skills.’ [Ed: our emphasis.]

No commission on earth can effect such a change. It is the market that dictates demand for skills – and if Sir Ian is the possessor of an elixir to control the markets in this way, he would have achieved world domination already.

We are in what is agreed to be a long and slow moving recession, which, with the eurozone crisis still to come to the sticking point, may well worsen. Talking of his commission bringing about ‘a substantial increase in demand’ for the improved skills of young people is hard to defend in this economic context.

Then we note that Sir Ian says: ‘We will be examining everything from the senior phase at school…’ [Ed: our emphasis].

This is far too late.

Any serious examination of the extent to which the Scottish education regime is sufficiently focused, demanding and robust to prepare the young for work has to start from the beginning.

By the time pupils get to the senior stage of their schooling, the faults and misdirections in the foundation of their education and the shaping of their attitudes to work have had their impact – which is all but irredeemable.

A major alarm call in 2012 came from universities – including in Aberdeen – reporting this year that they have been having to run remedial classes in basic skills and abilities – for university students.

The colleges sector too is in a state of upheaval, with severe finding cuts, unsure even if it is intended in any real way to survive.

Down the decades and the governments of all political colours, education has suffered from repeated and interventionist micromanagement by politicians. It has done so arguably more than any other area overseen by departments of governments. Because everyone has been to school at least, every education minister in history has assumed that this experience has qualified them to shape the education of others.

Youth unemployment cannot be reduced by the volumes of largely failing modern apprenticeships that have been established as the latest magic bullet; nor will it be affected by the talking shop of a commission, never mind one not even initially conceived of as working to a deadline.

This is nothing more than a shuffling off of responsibility by a government whose attention is not on the job it was elected to do.

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29 Responses to Answer to youth unemployment? A commission.

  1. And where is the SNP government finding the money to set up such commissions? Yesterday I read that they were giving more then £5 million to organisations offering money and benefits advice services such as CAS, and, of course, blaming Westminster for the problem. However, not one word was said about what benefits the SNP have planned post independence – which suggests to me that things could get a whole lot worse should the referendum result in ‘Yes’. I understand that Scotland has a far greater number of people in receipt of benefits per % of poplulation than the rest of the UK.

    The SNP government should be thanking Westminster for allowing them to have so much money to throw around on commissions and other such (in my view) wasteful committees and schemes.

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    • What makes you think the SNP will be the government of an independent Scotland after independence?
      There will of course be a general election to elect our firs independent Scottish Government in 2016

      I expect the current unionist parties won’t be taking part, as they will have thrown their toys out of their prams in a fit of pique, whilst waiting on instructions from London

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  2. In my mind, the biggest issue we have the the ‘over-education’ of our young people.

    The Scottish Government is asolutely obsessive with Higher education, but absolutely not obsessive what happens at the end of it. We have ‘record numbers’ in colleges and universities – great for Mr Salmond to boast, but we do not have record numbers of jobs to match. One day, and it looks like we might already be there, we are going to have a huge problem with youth unemployment. It could be argued that governments have delayed the jobs shortage by pushing people into education and then forgetting about them. The achievement of ‘record numbers’ is hardly an acheivement at all given the cash thrown at it.

    Ultimately, the jobs market in Scotland is not fantastic. The service sector can only create so many jobs and manufacturing is tiny, when compared to the likes of Germany. The London-centric financial services sector, oft belittled by Holyrood does a huge amount both directly and indirectly to support Scottish jobs.

    Which begs the question – what will sustain jobs for people post-Indy? Are we saying that the oil and gas industry, centred on the north east of Scotland will provide jobs for students leaving school in Dunoon? My partner is graduating this year and let me tell you, unless you want to up sticks and head to Aberdeen, there are next to no jobs in oil and gas in west central Scotland. We are now discussing moving to England where there are significantly more opportunities for graduates. This move would not be quite so simple post-Indy.

    The Scottish Government are being distracted by this Indy debate and not giving 100% to the things that matter most. If it’s a case of jobs for people or Indy, I know what I’d rather see them focus on.

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    • Agree with the sentiments of both Lowry and Jamie.

      We need to enable businesses of all sizes and areas of work to take on employees, not a talking shop as outlined in lead article.
      The youth are fine but need work, not more ‘guidance’.

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  3. Lowry, it may leave a bad taste in your mouth as your comments show but there are politicians trying to improve the economic lot of Scotland within the current constitutional arrangement.

    Industrialists like Sir Ian Wood are exactly the type of people to help support the increase in skills training for our young folk, and it is a tragedy that UK economic policy over the last three decades has presided over the decimation of the UK’s manufacturing base.

    Reindustrialisation of the Scottish manufacturing base and the improvement of the economy, with all that that brings, is at the heart of why people are demanding independence. You may not like that Lowry, and you may ask who is giving us money or for us to be grateful for benefits, but I can assure you many who disagree.

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    • I wonder who was in control when the Scottish manufacturing, ship-building, engineering and mining industries went down the drain?

      Oh aye it was westminster – better together indeed!

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  4. Jamie Black. Here are so many areas of industrialisation closed down through UK policy and it was not only Thatcher who closed industries like coal mining.

    Although Scotland still has fantastic reserves of coal, the skill base is now lost, and all because Thatcher wanted to rely on imported Polish coal a couple of pounds cheaper. But coal mining is not the only industry destroyed.

    Moreover, I take little comfort from your comment that the London centric financial sector does a huge amount to support jobs and I think in the current climate most folk would disagree with you.

    Frankfurt is a very successful financial centre and Germany as you note is Europe’s most successful economy.

    The success of Germany might just have something to do with having both a successful financial sector and an extensive manufacturing base.

    I wish you well in your search for a job down south after your partner graduates.Maybe you / she might have been better suited to have studied at a university down south. Might have cost but you certainly are of the view that English universities are better, as are the job prospects.

    And Aberdeen?

    Well I like the city and the surrounding area. Stayed and worked there, and it is unfortunate at you find the place so unsatisfactory.

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    • Perhaps you can tell us this firs then

      1. Benefits the UK government( of whatever flavour) have planned if independence is not achieved?

      2. How you know that the SNP will form Scotland’s first independent government?

      3. Whilst you’re at number one, what are the economic, foreign, defence, monetary, immigration, EU, education, policies for whoever will be the “UK government after the 2015 general election – exact figures and facts please?

      4. Whilst you’re at number two – as you seem to be some type of fortune teller, can you provide the winning lottery numbers (Euro or UK) for the next 6 weeks please?

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  5. There is such an economic imbalance between the republic of London and the rest of these islands. It’s now estimated you need an income of £250000 per annum to have a reasonable muddle class lifestyle in London. God help the folk who struggle on benefits . The whole edifice is unsustainable as it is fueled by paper money . Germany economy us based on manufacturing and dies not have the yawning gap between rich and poor both personal and regional.

    Independence will allow Scots to re-position it’s economy along smart manufacturing lines. This will be a long haul.

    People like Sir Ian , Brian Souter etc.
    who support innovative manufacturing are as well qualified as any to drive this forward.

    I think theory to create medium sized manufacturing enterprises rests with our Universities developing the many radical inventions into marketable product made in Scotland.

    Meantime I look round our country and see so much which needs to be done which requires modest skills which could progress into something more skilled and rewarding for our young people.

    Things as mundane as property maintenance require elements of skill and is something a lot if folk don’t do. It’s shortsighted.

    Why not gave an national maintenance charge paid annually with your council tax or rates in exchange for which entitles the property owner to gutter cleaning? Boundary repairs, path and stair repairs, painting, to name but a few. Owners could opt out but I suspect if the fund provided work for young people mist who could afford it would feel they were doing their bit voluntarily to provide some hope and sense of purpose for young people while our entrepreneurs develop a new industrial age

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    • Universities can help foster new companies, but the government need to be making it easier to start(and finish) companies; today’s SMEs are tomorrow’s Microsoft or Google, and in the mean time are a massive net contributor to the economy.

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  6. Not sure I fully grasp this idea, Graeme, but still can’t see anything in it about the SNP plans for those in need of benefits.

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  7. Lowry, I would not expect to see anything from the SNP on their plans for those in need of benefits if the impossible happened and Scotland voted for separation / independence. You should know by now that they have no plans for this or anything else.

    Typical of the SNP. If they don’t know what to do to solve a problem, they set up a commission / working group etc so the problem disappears into the long grass. They hope that everyone will forget about it.

    A load of gobbledegook from Graeme on his favourite subject of property. He must be in the business and looking out for himself. Get cheap labour by using kids to increase the value of his properties. You note that he refers to the SNPs millionaire friends like Brian Souter. It is true what they say about them being tartan Tories. They will do anything to help the Murdochs and Souters of this world but ignore those in true need.

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    • bennyshell

      Can you provide ALL plans for the UK govt (of any flavour) for after the UK general election of 2015

      Whilst you’re at it, can you provide the plans for ALL parties after te eScottish election of 2016

      Please provide the above requests with actual facts and figures, included in both should be the data if or if not Scotland becomes independent.

      After all we need such information, so we can plan ahead

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  8. Indeed, my view is that the SNP are more right wing than the Tories, however, I’d still like to know what they’ve got in mind for benefits. Funny how they keep blaming Westminster for problems without telling us how they would do it better.

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    • Carefull there Graeme, you are very close to reinventing “Workfare”, a concept that none of the parties support. Why? I suspect it might find favour with many of the employed members of the public.

      I think that many people are less concerned about how they spend money that just falls into their bank account without them having to do anything for it..

      Another anomaly in getting the unemployed into work comes from the court system which sentences people to do so many hours of unpaid work in the community. Work is on one hand a penalty and on the other a benefit to the worker.

      Bit of a conundrum wouldn’t you say?

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  9. What I am suggesting is voluntary so it is no poll tax.

    the suggestion is in a development stage but the wages paid must be at least the living wage rate.

    I can’t see the objection to people paying for repairs to their property to prevent future problems and improve the environment of communities.

    The scheme could go further such as develop premium building skills restoring some of the many ruins throughout Scotland.

    Just because some entrepreneurs support the SNP should not blind opponents to the contribution these and other people have made to manufacturing in Scotland. where would Alexanders Buses in Falkirk be if it had not been for Brian Soutar? Willie Haughey who is also part of the Commission is a Labour Party
    supporter so the claim of political partisanship doesn’t hold.

    The SNP gas long held as Party policy the ambition to create a citizen’s income . I understand the Greens also support this. How quickly this can be introduced remains to be seen. A Welfare proposal from the Scottish Government for post Independence will be published later this year.

    I would be interested to know what welfare system your other correspondents would envisage if the parties they support were in government in an independent Scotland instead of the SNP

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  10. I don’t want independence so happy to stick. Much rather we were all in this together. I really do fear for Scotland’s future, especially for the poor, if independence becomes reality.

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    • hahaha hahaha – and Scotland’s future is so wonderful under westminster control is it?

      Can you outline all plans for Scotland after 2015 UK general election, from all UK parties please

      I really do fear for Scotland’s future, especially the poor and everyone else too, if independence DOES NOT become a reality

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  11. The creation of jobs and the training of young people is what this initiative is all about and harnessing the skills of folks like Sir Ian Wood,Willie Haughey and others in this objective is exactly what Scotland wants and needs.

    Similarly the he Scottish government’s policy of supporting tuition fee education to encourage uptake is part of the same strategy, and already there is now a greater percentage uptake in Scotland than there is in England where tuition fees are now being levied.

    Quite why these policies provide a howl of attack is difficult to understand. Especially since the UK economy is failing.

    The UK economy is certainly no Germany nor at a smaller population scale is Scotland an economy as succesful as Norway. But Scotland could be, especially since both Germany and Norway have shown what can be achieved.

    Moreover, the current propoals by Westminster parties to cut benefis will only serve to increase social division, and the Scottish government are to be commended for supporting policies such as a health service delivering medicine free of prescription tax, free personal care, tuition free education and that is in stark contrast to the polcies down south.

    Like Norway, or Germany, or Singapore, Scotland can be successful. It has the resources, it has the people. All it needs is the will.

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  12. Funny that you haven’t mentioned that some folk are still paying for their personal care because councils can’t provide it free. Also you have ignored the fact that the SNP have stopped ILA 500 which has prevented some post grad. students from continuing with their studies. As for free presecriptions – my views have already been aired.

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    • Free Prescriptions

      It costs more to collect the charges than is collected in, that must make economic sense to you, it sure as heck doesn’t add up on the balance sheet though.

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  13. What a non-idea! Today, if any person wishes work done on their property, there are a whole host of companies and specialist firms out there to offer quotes and complete the work. In doing this, these companies are sustained and provide employment, as well as a service. How is this proposal any different?

    So this ‘new’ policy would try encourage people to spend their money, not with commercial companies, rather with cheap, government subsidies labour.

    And what of the businesses that already offer such trades? They’d be at risk of going under because the government if under cutting them.

    What a splendid idea – solve youth unemployment whilst driving existing businesses and jobs into the ground – surely this cannot actually be the SNP plan?

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  14. Sam, you fear for Scotland’s future if we don’t get independence. You might have a point, and a pretty big one wt thwt.

    Hot off the press today are articles about Osborne’s cut of £8 billion to the Scottish government over the next four years.

    Also in the press are comments that the UK economy contracted again in the last quarter of 2012 and that the UK AAA credit rating is going down the pan with government indebtedness rising billions and billions beyond expectation.

    Moreover with Germany’s chancellor Merkel telling us that Germany and Europe won’t be bullied by the UK, and with Obama’s administration making it clear that a UK out of Europe will be out of the Special Relationship, all is certainly not well.

    Ah but as Cameron is talking militarily tough against the Argentinians and their Latin American allies, one sees an even more disatrous future as our UK economic superpower takes on the World, whilst it announces a further reduction of some 5,500 army personel because it can’t afford em.

    Kinda makes you wonder what kinda future Blighty has. But hey ho, Westminster know best and better than all the rest.

    And here’s the poor wee Scottish government trying to create jobs through training and support for tertiary levels of education. And one wonders why support for independence is rising.

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  15. Willie answer me two questions.

    1) Do you think that ‘Westminster cuts’ only affect Scotland?
    2) Do you think that the populations of England, N Ireland and Wales are not facing cuts too?

    We’re all in it together, so why don’t you give it a rest with the ‘we’re hard done do’ bleatings. We are ‘suffering’ along with everyone else in the UK, and so it should be. We are no special case.

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  16. There’s nothing cheap about the services I’m suggesting nor that they would undercut private business.

    It is possible that the services offered will compete with some private businesses but as the services will not be subsidised what is the problem with competition?

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  17. We should be suffering eh?

    Scotland has been suffering for an awful long time. This is supposed to be a union of equals between Scotland and England. Well it’s not living up to that and we need to get on and build a country that cares for the people who live here.
    Have you any idea jamie black how much trouble the UK is in? There is no hiding from the hell that the coalition is heading our way; and yes, NI and Wales will face cuts but that’s no consolation at all. Scotland, despite everything is outperforming all right now, and that’s down to this SNP government.
    There are so many possibilities for us and even with the recession we are not a country without resources. I would rather live in a country with a can-do government, rather than Westminster which is determined to destroy the working population. And that is absolutely NOT an exaggeration.

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