A new commission, tasked with developing Scotland's young workforce, has been set up by the Scottish government.
The group is to be led by Sir Ian Wood, former chair of oil services firm the Wood Group. He will be joined by experts from the worlds of business, further education, schools and trade unions.
The government announcement came as a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that the number of under-25s who are unemployed has almost doubled since 2008 (see panel).
In cooperation with the government, the workforce commission will aim to improve the readiness of young people for work and investigate the links between Curriculum for Excellence, post-16 education and employers.
Routes from school into work and the success of programmes such as the modern apprenticeship programme will also be investigated, before the group makes its recommendations to support the ongoing college reform programme next year.
"We will be examining everything from the senior phase at school, careers advice, further education and how employers are joined up with the training process," Sir Ian said.
"The worst experience a young person leaving school can have is to suddenly find the world out there doesn't want them, and thus it becomes a significant social as well as economic problem."
Through the work of the commission, he hopes to make "a substantial difference" to the way school-leavers can access training opportunities and ensure that training equips them with the skills they need.
The new commission has been welcomed by Colleges Scotland, as well as the EIS teaching union.
"We look forward to supporting the commission to find ways of reducing the unacceptably high levels of young people who are unemployed. Part of that will be to encourage more young people to come to college and for greater investment to be made to achieve that," said Colleges Scotland chief executive John Henderson.
"Colleges are rightly ambitious for Scotland, and this is why we have embraced the Scottish government's structural reform of the sector, which we believe will strengthen existing strong partnerships with employers and schools," he added.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said his union was particularly keen to explore "how Curriculum for Excellence can drive enhancement in school-college partnerships in delivering better post-16 education and training for school-leavers".
Members of the new commission include Sir Willie Haughey, managing director of City Refrigeration Holdings; Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress; Michael David, chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills; and Linda McKay, principal of Forth Valley College.
"Between them, the individual members of the commission have already provided both inspiration and employment for thousands of young people," said Angela Constance, minister for youth employment. "They are the right people to inspire a whole new generation of Scots and I await next year's final report with interest."
The Rowntree Foundation report found:
- In the decade to 2010-11, the child poverty rate in Scotland fell by 10 per cent. The rate is now lower than in England and Wales.
- Since 2008, the number of under-25s who are unemployed has risen to 90,000. The report says under-25s are the only age group for whom unemployment has grown in the past two years.
- The number of people who work part-time but want a full-time job has risen from 70,000 in 2008 to 120,000 in 2012. The number working full-time has fallen.
- Health inequalities in Scotland are growing, and a boy born in the poorest 10 per cent of areas in Scotland can expect to live 14 years fewer than one born in the least deprived 10 per cent. For girls, the difference is eight years.