Heather Gray, director, The Prince’s Trust Scotland
LOCAL government minister Derek MacKay laid down a compelling gauntlet for the third sector in these pages last month (TFN, 16 February) and we must take up the challenge if we are to deliver the social outcomes that Scotland needs. He called on us all to “show leadership and collaborate more”, to pool our resources with others in the same fields and to deliver better partnerships with the public sector.
Put simply, public bodies should collectively do all they can to work with the third sector to deliver the best possible outcomes for those in our communities needing support the most. We must be prepared to work collaboratively, to combine our strengths, our expertise and deliver service provision in unison if we are to achieve outcomes which are both efficient and effective.
To some this may sound little more than a lofty aspiration and yet it is exactly the common sense response needed from an under-pressure sector. The Christie Commission’s recommendations further endorse this move as we make the shift towards the preventative spending agenda.
The Prince’s Trust is conscious that there has never been a greater need for a collaborative response to Scotland’s youth unemployment challenge. Month by month we see the wearing-away by cruel attrition on short, medium and long-term employment prospects of young people across Scotland. The challenge is well understood, but daunting nonetheless. At the last count, our unemployment level among 16 to 24 year-olds stood at 102,000. And while the employment rate among this age group is marginally better than in the rest of the UK, more needs to be done.
To its credit, the Scottish Government has not been slow to look for joined-up solutions. The appointment of a dedicated youth employment minister working across cabinet portfolios shows that the government understands that we cannot afford to compartmentalise our response to the current situation. Since Angela Constance came into post, we’ve had the welcome release of an additional £30 million directly to support youth employment, much of it available for third sector interventions. This, together with the Opportunities for All guarantee of training or learning opportunities for every 16-to-19 year-old, are welcome steps forward.
But it’s abundantly clear that government can’t succeed in isolation – this will require an all Scotland response, with buy-in across the public, private and third sectors if this ambitious strategy is to come to fruition.
It is against this backdrop that The Prince’s Trust Scotland and The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust (PSYBT) have made a strategic decision to join forces. This is a significant move for both bodies, but the present need among young people means that we must be proactive, innovative and determinedly ambitious in our vision of creating a new stronger, more responsive whole.
Both organisations have long, proud histories of supporting Scotland’s young people. The Prince’s Trust Scotland supports disadvantaged young people into education, training and employment, while PSYBT helps young people to start up and continue in business. Those client groups will remain unchanged because they are diverse and the barriers that our young people face are complex. Only by addressing those needs by tailored interventions can we make the inroads required. So, once we have merged, the work of PSYBT will continue under the name The Prince’s Trust Youth Business Scotland, a core part of The Prince’s Trust.
We are confident that by combining our skills, expertise and knowledge, The Prince’s Trust and the Prince’s Trust Youth Business Scotland can continue to play a pivotal role in supporting Scotland’s young people in moving their lives forward and nurturing the entrepreneurial drive necessary for giving Scotland’s young people the best chance possible to play a full part in Scotland’s economic future.
The simple fact is that by joining forces, both charities will be in a stronger position, with the resources necessary to help more young people and work more effectively with partners in the public and private sectors to get results. There had already been considerable synergy in the work that each organisation has been undertaking to support Scotland’s young people. By formally pooling our endeavours and retaining both organisations’ delivery models, we believe that we are in a very strong position to support the emerging youth employment strategy in offering sustainable opportunities for young people.
The merger gives our partners in government, local authorities and crucially Scotland’s business community the confidence that we are here together; a single, evolved and adaptable point of referral for diverse needs. Private sector support has been crucial to the success of both organisations and we will endeavour to harness their support further as we move towards an all Scotland approach to addressing youth unemployment.
We will also create a single point of access for young people looking for support, simplifying our clients’ journey toward employment, self-employment, education or training. We can now combine our personal development programmes, which range from early engagement initiatives through to vocational training programmes and the unique business start-up model that will now be provided by Prince’s Trust Youth Business Scotland. Young people can look forward to an enhanced offering and reduced referral and assessment times.
So, while there are plenty of daunting challenges left in tackling youth unemployment, there is also plenty of reason to be confident that we are rising to the challenge in the ambitious manner required. The Prince’s Trust and the PSYBT are entering a new era in recognition that new opportunities for our young people can only be created by breaking down artificial barriers and working to a common purpose.