The north-east can carry the torch for Scotland in the crusade to reduce unemployment among the country’s young people, Sir Ian Wood told the region’s fledgling jobs taskforce yesterday.
Sir Ian, the former chairman of energy giant Wood Group, said the area was in far better position than other parts of Scotland to meet ambitious employment targets put forward last year in his commission’s report into joblessness among young people.
He added: “We are very lucky in this part of Scotland. In terms of prospects, we have got a whole bunch of youngsters, whether we call them technicians or tradesmen, who are 25 to 30 years old and they’re earning up to £50,000 a year.
“There are other areas that are going to have a really difficult task to improve on the figures.”
Sir Ian also called for parents to stop “deifying” universities and put more faith in colleges and vocational qualifications.
He said: “Parents right across the whole of society speak as if going to college was failure – that non-university was failure. And they actually have bright enough kids with a lot of capability and potential.
“I think we must stop deifying universities. They cover a massive amount of subjects, many of which are also offered by colleges. Parents are going to have to alter their outlook.”
He was speaking at an induction for board members of the North East Scotland Invest in Young People Group, a new business-led initiative aimed at creating more employment opportunities for young people in Aberdeen city and shire.
The group’s membership includes representatives from energy industry service provider Score Europe, Balfour Beatty and the Press & Journal, as well as local educational institutions and councils.
It was set up in the wake of Sir Ian’s Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, which published its final report last summer.
The report – entitled Education Working for All – found that schools were not equipping young people with the right skills, while many businesses were not engaging with education providers to help fix the problem.
Very few of the more than 50% of school leavers who do not go on to university have relevant vocational qualifications, the report said.
Less than one-third of Scottish businesses had any contact of any kind with education providers, offered work experience opportunities or recruited direct from schools, it added.
The commission set the challenge of arranging long-term partnerships between all Scottish secondary schools and employers within three years, as well as increasing the number of work placements and apprenticeships on offer.
Its headline target was to cut unemployment among young people in Scotland from 53,000 at the time of the report’s publication by about 30,000 by 2020.
Sir Ian praised the north-east’s taskforce for setting itself the ambitious task of establishing links between local schools and businesses by the end of the year.
“You carry a very important torch on behalf of the region’s young people and I really hope you do a great job because there’s a really super challenge out there,” he said.
The north-east taskforce is the second such group to have been set up in Scotland. There are plans for about 15 to be created across the country.