How we are helping young people in Scotland get into employment

Posted by / Monday 30 January 2017 / Young people
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Finding a job is hard. It's almost impossible if there is no one you can turn to for support.

Our employability services in Scotland work hard to help any young person who comes to them. They go above and beyond to help young people who haven't been dealt a fair chance in life to get a job they like, and help them keep it. We interviewed Nicola who is a Practice Team Leader for one of the services in Edinburgh, to find how they work.

It would be great to hear a bit about the programmes you offer to those looking for work to start us off. 

I work in our Edinburgh employability service and we support 16 – 24 year olds to get into work. We have a team of 7 staff supporting over 150 young people per year which is likely to increase next year.

Our programmes are mostly in construction, but we also have programmes in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) as well as retail and hospitality on a smaller scale.

We help the young people by providing the qualifications and certificates they need, recognised by employers.

One of these we provide is CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme). Basically anyone who works on a construction site needs one of these cards, and employers recognise it as evidence that the person is up to date on health and safety.

We also do lots of work with young people looking to get into construction around health and safety and other relevant training they might need like PASMA (prefabricated access suppliers and manufactures association). This training is favoured by big employers, so really helps with getting them into work.

We usually work with people in groups of 8 – 12, and have in-house training for them around CV and interviews skills and confidence building too.

Once the young person has a job we work with both them and the employer, while they settle in. These young people’s circumstances can change very quickly, like someone might be doing fine and then suddenly find themselves homeless, which obviously causes problems with their job. So we support them as much as we can.


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I think all of those things are so important to finding work, and I bet the young people do too. What are the young people you work with like generally?

Lots of the people that come to us for help need support in different ways. Some can show challenging behaviours, or maybe they didn’t finish school. Some need their confidence built up a bit, and there are some people who tick all of these boxes.


""Some of them have nobody. I’ve met many over the years who literally have no family no friends, absolutely nothing. These young people often have a lot of issues there and barriers""

Nicola, Practice Team Leader

A lot of people we work with also have a history of using drugs or alcohol or both. That leads to offending behaviour and so it can sometimes be a difficult and challenging environment to work in. Lot of people we work with have been in prison and and don’t have the skills they need to move on in life.

It’s all about intervention I suppose. Although the other side is young people who don’t have any of those issues. It could be they’ve got real confidence issues, so giving them skills and training qualification, gives them boost they needs.

And it’s also just having somebody at the end of the phone they can talk to. We are very good listeners here.

Not all of these young people have networks around them or a positive role model in their life, they can turn to. Some of them have nobody. I’ve met many over the years who literally have no family no friends, absolutely nothing. These young people often have a lot of issues there and barriers, so we deal with the whole range of people that need our help.

We are not here to judge anyone and we make it clear from the start that we concentrate on the future and not what has happened in the past.

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And when someone does come to you for help, how do you decide what help they need and how to provide it?

We work around the young person’s needs by following the Scottish Government strategic employability pipeline system.


This pipeline looks at the needs of the young person on a 1 – 4 scale, 1 being young people who need lots of support with communication skills, may have other barriers like no qualifications and no work experience, and 4 being young people who are ready for work but just need a little extra help finding opportunities.

The idea is that the young person comes in at one stage and progresses through the stages and hopefully leaves us in a positive destination.

We also work closely with other organisations when young people need specialist support that we can’t offer. We have organisations popping in all the time to support young people while they are on our programmes. We find the joined up approach works especially when young people have various barriers.


How do young people come into the services you run? Are they all referred by social workers or can they come to you themselves?

We work with a lot of organisations who refer young people to us, like skills development Scotland. We also work with training providers, local colleges and with police Scotland and this is how we mainly identify young people we can help.

Also, because we have such a good reputation locally, we do tend to get a lot of young people phoning and getting in touch to ask about their friends coming along. The fact that people are referring themselves to us really speaks volumes about young people’s opinions of the service. It’s a really positive thing for us.

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It's amazing to hear young people are actually referring themselves. What is it do you think, that has made the programme so successful?

I suppose it’s about our approach. Because our approach is so supported long term and it’s always about the young person getting to a positive destination, and them being able to sustain that. It’s not just getting young people starting another programme or starting college and then considering our work done. It’s about long terms goals, not just getting a quick tick in the box.

Our main aim is to support young people to have a goal in life. Because a lot don’t. We prove to these incredible young people that they do have ability to keep a job or even to just get a job. We believe in them when they often have no one else to.  

That’s what we do and that’s one of the reasons I’m as passionate now about what we do, as I was when I started this job in 2009. Although there are targets, we’ve never lost the moral side of it.

We will always make provision work for a young person wherever we possibly can.

Not everyone has skills to deal with that. I’m a firm believer in you’re only as good as your staff team. We all have very different backgrounds here but all share same passion and that’s what supports everything we do here.

It's wonderful to hear you ares till so passionate about what you do. What would you say has been your proudest moment in your job?

A young person I’ve known for many years (this makes me feel old actually) came in to see us last week. He was only 15 at time and now he is 20. It’s been a long journey for him and he has come in and out of our programmes over the years, but that’s fine because that’s what we’re here for. There have been lots of ups and down but now he is in employment at Kwik Fit and he loves it. His life is very different now. He brought one of his friends in and said “can you sort him out he needs some help!” And we’ve been able to do that.

It’s a good example to show that young people have a lot of trust in us, although we’re only employability service, people know we’ll will help with anything we can. Our door is always open and that’s what makes us so successful. 

Young people stay in touch and are always happy to catch up with the staff.

Would you say the young people you work with are motivated to get a job?

Definitely. It’s all voluntary, no one is made to be here at all. But the retention rates are really high. Very few young people drop out and if they do it is usually because they are unable to sustain due to personal issues.

We work with a lot of young people that are seen in their communities as someone who can’t hold down a job, or stop reoffending and through the years we’ve seen so many stories of young people being able to change that.  

As we’re known well locally, the young people that come to us know what they’re signing up to now. When young people are in our nest we do make it difficult it’s difficult for them to escape! We have ways of keeping in touch with them because we need to know that every young person is safe and that’s a priority for us.

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