South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that youth employment in Dumfries and Galloway has risen to 63 per cent – marginally above the national average.
Ms McAlpine has also endorsed calls by Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment Angela Constance, for Westminster to adopt the European Youth Guarantee to ensure faster intervention with unemployed young people in order to help them into work.
The European Youth Guarantee is an EU-wide measure to ensure the earliest possible intervention with unemployed young women and men by stepping in before four months of unemployment to maximise the chances of supporting 16 to 24 year olds towards work while they are still fresh out of education, training or their previous employment.
In response to a question from Ms McAlpine in the chamber, the Cabinet Secretary revealed she had written to UK Employment Minister Esther McVey urging her to properly consider the benefits of the scheme, only to be told by Ms McVey that Westminster would not endorse it.
“It is no secret that the Government and I are whole-heartedly in favour of the European youth guarantee. Parliament also voted in favour of that position.
“I have written to the UK Government a number of times to make it clear that the work programme and the youth contract are failing to intervene early enough. The most recent reply that I received was from Esther McVey on 24 October, just last week, in which she said:
“We do not think that the UK endorsement of this initiative would either be necessary or cost-effective.”
“I strongly dispute that view. We must prevent youth unemployment from becoming long-term unemployment, which means acting from day 1 of a young person’s unemployment.”
Ms McAlpine said:
“It is fantastic news that youth employment has risen in the region, however underemployment Is still an issue.
“The Scottish Government has invested in a wide range of employment initiatives that are directly helping to create sustainable employment opportunities for young people in Dumfries and Galloway.
“However, Dumfries and Galloway could benefit greatly from European Union funding through the youth employment initiative which Esther McVey has made clear the UK will not adopt.
“I think it is time for Ms McVey to reverse her decision and I fully endorse Ms Constance’s call for this EU funding to benefit the South West.”
In Dumfries and Galloway the current SG has introduced more than 2,500 modern apprenticeship starts in the past three years; supported 145 young people through community jobs Scotland in the past three years; created 341 new jobs for young people through the youth employment Scotland fund in the past two years; and almost 1,000 starts on the employability fund between this year and the last.