Cabinet Secretary meets Career Ready leaders

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training, met the Career Ready team in Perth today, along with local business and education leaders , to discuss the region’s developing youth investment strategy.

More than 85 students from seven  schools in Perth and Kinross have benefitted from the Career Ready programme over the past  two years with a further 60 students and two schools about to start. More than 100 employee volunteers from the public, private and voluntary sectors are mentoring students locally.

Roseanna Cunningham met with several local young people who have taken part in the programme and gone into employment, or moved onto further and higher education to support their clear career path for the future. 

Businesses supporting the programme in Perth include major plcs such as insurance group Aviva, energy giant SSE, and transport operator Stagecoach Group, as well as many SMEs, such as construction, energy and renewable specialist Kilmac Group and family-run Blairgowrie-based business the Proctor Group. The programme is also backed by Perth and Kinross Council (PKC).

Career Ready is part of a wider Invest in Youth strategy which is being developed by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce in partnership with PKC, businesses and education providers in the region.

Vicki Unite, Chief Executive of Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Research shows that our region performs comparatively well in terms of skills and employment levels, and good existing links between education and business. 

“But we cannot afford to stand still in what is a competitive regional, national and international marketplace. We need to ensure our young people have the skills to meet the needs of our existing strong food and drink and tourism sectors, as well as supporting future growth in other areas such as renewables and clean-tech.

“Our region has a mixed city and rural economy, with a high proportion of small and medium-sized businesses in our area. As well as developing our young workforce of tomorrow, we also need to ensure our region has the digital connectivity to support our people, communities and economy.”

Anne Wexelstein, Career Ready Director for Scotland, said: “Perth and Kinross has been one of the early adopters of Career Ready. Support for the programme has continued to grow among both schools and employers over the past three years as we focus on giving young people with little family background of higher education or professional careers the confidence, skills and networks to achieve life-long success at work.  

“The truly inspiring stories about the positive, personal impact Career Ready has had on young people here and elsewhere in Scotland show the real difference closer ties between business and education can make. It’s also a two-way street. There are practical benefits for businesses in developing a pipeline of skilled future employees by engaging their current employees in changing the life chances of the young people in their communities.”

Young people attending the meeting included David McNaughton, a sixth-year student at Perth High School. He is looking to pursue a career as an engineer and worked over the summer at the Stagecoach bus depot in Perth. 

David said: “I wanted to gain experience of what real work was like. The Career Ready internship with Stagecoach was a great chance to develop my knowledge and skills on mechanics, as well as understanding more about the line of work I want to get into in the future.”

Elinor Mooney, a former student at St John’s Academy in Perth, benefitted from mentoring and a paid internship at Kilmac, graduating from the Career Ready programme earlier this year. She won the Sir Winfried Bischoff Student of the Year Award for her personal development through the Career Ready experience, earning a paid work placement at Standard Life in Edinburgh. Elinor is now studying nursing at Edinburgh University. 

She said: “Before Career Ready I was quite self conscious and didn’t have much self belief.  Through the programme I have built myself up so much.  During my internship at Kilmac, the staff told me how well I came across, so from then on I started to believe in myself more and I have taken that confidence with me.

“The internship taught me about the value of money and the importance of responsibility.  It set a ball rolling and now I have two part-time jobs, helped with references from my internship. My mentor has been so important to me and is more of a friend than just a business mentor.  I know she is there for me and having that extra support spurs you on.”

Roseanna Cunningham, who is also MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, said: “I was very pleased to hear about the work of Career Ready and the experiences of the students who are already involved.

“Through Developing the Young Workforce – Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy, we want to reduce unemployment, ensure our young people are ready to take up sustainable employment and able to contribute to Scotland’s economic growth.

“Initiatives like Career Ready fit well with our work on Developing the Young Workforce on school and employer partnerships and will help Scotland’s students maximise their potential.”