Susan Smith says the voluntary sector is Never More Needed in the Young Person's Guarantee drive to ensure jobs for 18 to 24 year olds after Covid
Part of my personal Covid coping strategy is gratitude practice – I write in my dairy and talk with my friends about the things I’m thankful for. Right now, I’m so grateful not to be a young person coming out of education and trying to get a job.
Young people are some of the hardest hit by the pandemic – socially and emotionally but also financially and practically. Lockdown has seen real and prospective jobs dwindle away for thousands of young people.
Some were furloughed with barely a foot in the door and have seen their skills atrophy over the last year, others found themselves without even the fallback of a pub job to help them pay the rent, and those who already faced barriers to employment were quickly facing a brick wall.
Recruitment almost completely dried up in 2020, with vacancies in the summer down 60% on the previous year. And the Institute for Public Policy Research estimated youth unemployment in Scotland could reach a staggering 100,000.
This is why the Scottish Government launched the Young Person’s Guarantee in November 2020. 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.
This week, we’re celebrating the really important role that Scotland’s voluntary sector is playing in the Young Person’s Guarantee with a range of events and social media activity. Third sector organisations often provide the best opportunities for young people to grow a range of different skills in a supported environment.
Graeme found himself unemployed after leaving university and managing a debilitating long-term health condition with regular flare ups. Thanks to Scottish Sports Futures (SSF), who offered him a job through the Community Jobs Scotland programme, he continued to develop skills throughout the pandemic and is about to start a new permanent post.
“I felt lost, confused, scared and not the least bit aware of what career path I wanted to take, I let my condition control my life and was in a constant mental battle with myself,” he said.
“Community Jobs Scotland came out of nowhere and from just hearing the name over a year ago, look where I am now. I not only have a full-time job, but I am excited about what my future in employment can be. I have gained employability skills beyond belief, I am proud of what I have accomplished, and I want to use my journey to help others like me.”
Graeme’s full story highlights what an asset he has been to SSF over the last year, when it like so many other charities has had to adapt programmes and cope with the constant changes Covid has brought.
A year into Covid 19 and lockdown, and we’re all tired. As a sector, we have done so much in the last year to look after our communities, our staff and volunteers, and ourselves. It’s hard to think about the future when you are still dealing with the immediate challenge, but finding a role for a young people in your organisation can bring new energy and ideas to the challenges you continue to face. It’s a win-win because you can also make as much of a difference to a young person as Scottish Sports Futures did to Graeme. Right now that’s Never More Needed for everyone.
So, SCVO is urging organisations to show their support for the Young Person’s Guarantee this week on social media using #YPguarantee. For employers thinking of getting involved, SCVO also offers support and information on programmes like Community Jobs Scotland and Kickstart.
Life in lockdown continues on like Groundhog Day, so personally I have my hopes pinned on summer, some easing of restrictions and two weeks in a caravan in Cornwall. I can dream that dream because I have a job with a decent salary and a car to get me to Cornwall. So, I’m grateful for all the wonderful Scottish voluntary organisations that will turn that into an achievable dream for today’s anxious unemployed young people too.
Susan Smith is SCVO’s campaigns manager. Find out more about Never More Needed. Tell us your experiences or interest in the #YPGuarantee using #NeverMoreNeeded on social media 15-19 March.