Stewart Nicol, Chief Executive, Inverness Chamber of Commerce
As the business voice of the Highlands, Inverness Chamber of Commerce is constantly seeking ways to support our local workforce, both now and in the future.
A key focus for us is delivering the Scottish Government’s Developing the Young Workforce Programme for Inverness and Central Highland (DYWICH) which we will now carry out for another two years.
This is a significant programme which is bringing about real and lasting cultural change for the region’s young people, their parents, teachers and SMEs. Bringing together private and public employers, education and career specialists, it is improving career and learning opportunities for our young people through the creation of employer-led groups which creates a culture of real partnership between employers and education.
By engaging with schools, colleges and employers, young people receive more information about likely careers, experience in the workplace and apprenticeships, while other co-ordinated actions realise more job opportunities for our young people.
Following on from the success of the first two years, we have been extremely encouraged that participation in events in schools and colleges, supported by employers, has continued to grow.
Highlights from the 2018-2019 programme include seeing an increase in the number of employers supporting young people with work preparation activities, such as career advice and work experience. We held six employer engagement/recruitment events aimed at creating a pool of more than 600 employers interested in being involved. This now includes a total of 218 employers registered to provide work experience on hi-hope.org, an online resource for young school leavers in the Highlands.
In all, 96 events, which provided information and meaningful work-based activity in education, were held, which resulted in 4,546 pupils engaged with activities. In addition, over the last year, DYWICH encouraged more than 25 employers to have taken on a young person under a modern apprenticeship.
This demonstrates that there are increasing work experience opportunities and pathways into employment for S4, S5 and S6 pupils with the help of the business community, while developing partnerships have helped support and embed employability into the curriculum.
Focused activities are also informing and inspiring young people to potential careers that are available in their local area, such as construction, hospitality, care, land-based and STEMD (science, technology, engineering, maths and digital).
Inverness Chamber and the DYWICH team are delighted with the ongoing success of the programme and that it has the confidence of the Scottish Government to continue to deliver for our young people and future workforce at least until March 2021.
We are all intent on developing the programme further and working towards the DYWICH strategic aim of having zero per cent youth unemployment in the city and across the Highlands within that timescale.