Apprentice levels reveal there is much to build on
Only 14 per cent of employers in Scotland currently have apprentices or offer apprenticeships, according to a new report on youth employment.
The Westminster government's skills experts, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, also reveal that a third of recruiting employers in the UK have not taken on a young person in the past year, and only a quarter of those looking for new staff took on 16- to 18-year-olds in that time.
Scotland's figures are slightly above the UK average, with 24 per cent of recruiting employers taking on 16- to 18-year-olds, and 62 per cent taking on staff aged 24 and under.
But there are significant barriers to young people accessing the labour market, according to Scaling the Youth Employment Challenge, published this week.
Despite employers demanding that young people come equipped with relevant work experience, only one in four offers any themselves to young people in education.
The recession has caused a fall-off in recruitment generally, the report states, but even where employers have vacancies to fill, the way in which they do this militates against young people.
"Word-of-mouth recruitment, which disadvantages young people without networks and contacts, is on the rise and is now the number one method of recruiting," the report states. The use of Jobcentre Plus for recruitment has also fallen in the past two years.
Across the UK, only 15 per cent of employers currently offer apprenticeships - 1 per cent more than in Scotland, where one in 10 currently run apprenticeships and another 4 per cent offer places.
Many employers apparently believe they have no need for an apprentice, or question the suitability and cost of the scheme. There is also still a widespread lack of awareness of the availability of government funding for apprenticeship places, according to the report.
The commission says that empowering employers and giving them a greater say over public spending on skills would be a catalyst for innovative ideas and increased investment. It also calls for the establishment of employer-owned and -run partnerships, bringing together employees, unions and training providers.
There is still a "huge potential for expansion of apprenticeships", according to the UKCES. Twice the number of employers who currently offer places plan to offer them in future, so it should be possible to double participation.
"Nothing less than a radical shift in approach will be sufficient to redress the UK's youth employment problems," the report concludes.
A Scottish government spokesman said: "The Scottish government is committed to supporting more young people into employment, including ensuring at least 25,000 Modern Apprenticeship opportunities in every year of this Parliament.
"The willingness of Scottish employers to take on young people reflects Scotland's stronger performance in recent labour market publications, but we cannot be complacent. One young person out of work is one too many."
KEY STATISTICS FROM THE REPORT
45% of employers say their young applicants are not able to compete with other candidates.
29% of them say this is because of a lack of experience.
27% of employers have provided work experience, while only 18 per cent have provided it to those in school, and a mere 9 per cent to those in college.
37% of those not offering work experience say this is because they have no suitable roles.
22% of employers in Scotland who had a vacancy used word of mouth as their recruitment channel.