Protecting young people’s life chances

By Sandy Begbie CBE, CEO at Scottish Financial Enterprise and author of Young Person's Guarantee report

I was delighted to have the opportunity to join you in the plenary discussion at the recent CIPD Scotland conference. I left reassured by the level of discussion, passion and commitment when it comes to supporting young people’s life chances, especially in this moment.

Having the opportunity to fulfil your potential as you grow up and enter adulthood is something that can easily be taken for granted.

The ability to develop new skills, learn from your experiences, and to have a choice about the path you want to follow is something that should be available to everybody.

And yet, one of the consequences of the pandemic is that those opportunities are being reduced for today’s generation of young people.

This is evident in a myriad of ways, from pupils facing time away from the classroom to students being absent from college and university campuses.

The history of previous economic downturns tells us that this can have a scarring effect on young people which remains evident throughout their working lives, and if we are to avoid creating a lost generation we must take steps now to help them overcome the barriers they now face.

I’ve been proud to lead on the development of the Young Person’s Guarantee which sets out to ensure that today’s generation continue to have access to work and learning. It aims within two years to give all young people, aged 16-24 in Scotland the chance to succeed through the opportunity of a job, apprenticeship, education, training or volunteering. And is delivered in partnership through the public sector, the third sector, education and critically Scotland’s employers. The DWP Kickstart Scheme, for example, is just one of the programmes that is helping us deliver on the ambitions of the Guarantee with many local authorities using it to provide additional support for young people.

Since it was launched in November we’ve already travelled a great distance, with 18,000 new opportunities for young people having been developed. There is, however, a great deal that remains to be done.

Employers will continue to play a fundamentally important role in Scotland’s economic recovery from the pandemic and in making a success of the Young Person’s Guarantee.

Young people bring enthusiasm, energy, creativity and diversity to a business and most importantly future proof a skilled workforce for years to come. The Guarantee, offers employers the opportunity to develop a future pipeline of skills and experience with young people at the heart of the workforce.

The pandemic and business recovery need not be a barrier to investing in youth and I’ve been constantly inspired this year by the many success stories I’ve heard from Scotland’s employers, including at the conference.

I would encourage every employer and its HR function, to now seize the moment and consider how taking on a young person could benefit your business as well as offering someone a valuable opportunity.

There are options for employers of all sizes to get involved in the Guarantee, in up to five ways:

  • Inspire pupils and college students to gain the skills needed for the world of work
  • Create opportunities for young people who face the greatest barriers to work
  • Create jobs and apprenticeships suitable for 16-24 year olds
  • Create work-based learning, training and upskilling opportunities for young people
  • Ensure a work environment which supports all young people and provides fair work

Now is the time for all of us to commit to supporting Scotland’s young people and ensure their future is a bright one.

To find out more about the Young Person’s Guarantee, and how to get involved, visit or contact the Employer Engagement team directly at

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