Guest Blog: Protecting young people’s life chances – Sandy Begbie CBE

I was delighted to recently speak to the Fair Work Convention about the Young Person’s Guarantee and how it can deliver for young people and the business community.

Having the opportunity to fulfil your potential as you grow up and enter adulthood is something that can easily be taken for granted.

The ability to develop new skills, learn from your experiences, and to have a choice about the path you want to follow is something that should be available to everybody.

Sandy Begbie CBE, CEO Scottish Financial Enterprise

And yet, one of the consequences of the pandemic is that those opportunities are being reduced for today’s generation of young people.  I was grateful for the opportunities I received when I was younger and would not be where I am today without the faith of others and the chances I was offered.

The history of previous economic downturns tells us that this can have a scarring effect on young people which remains evident throughout their working lives, and if we are to avoid creating a lost generation we must take steps now to help them overcome the barriers they now face.

The Guarantee signals our commitment to support young people but is also pivotal to businesses as we take further steps towards economic recovery. I have been delighted to see my own organisation Scottish Financial Service and some of our members already commit to taking on young people at this time. Its importance can be seen by the consensus amongst all political parties that support and commitment to  young people should be a priority as we take the steps towards economic recovery. I was also pleased to see the proposal to create a youth employment minister to ensure that the commitment of the Guarantee can be taken forward at every level of Government.

As young people leave schools and colleges and furlough support eases off it is essential that young people have the same opportunities afforded to previous generations. Businesses therefore will be absolutely fundamental to a full economic recovery.

I’ve been proud to lead on the development of the Young Person’s Guarantee which sets out to ensure that today’s generation continue to have access to work and learning. It aims within two years to give all young people, aged 16-24 in Scotland the chance to succeed through the opportunity of a job, apprenticeship, education, training or volunteering. And is delivered in partnership through the public sector, the third sector, education and critically Scotland’s employers.

It is the most ambitious youth employment policy and strategy ever developed in Scotland being the strategic solution that supports young people from the early years of secondary school through to starting work. For employers this covers how to support taking on apprenticeships, joining some of the many companies in Scotland taking advantage of the UK Government Kickstart scheme or utilising the Developing the Young Workforce to help prepare young people for the world of work.

How does this support fair work? First and foremost the Guarantee has as its hallmark a strategic focus on young people and how we can best deliver for them. I was also very clear in my Report that ensuring good quality and fair work for all was a key priority. I also outlined in my recommendations that jobs that are being created must come with a stated commitment from the employers to move to the Living Wage within an agreed time period, which will coincide with the economic recovery and in making a success of the Young Person’s Guarantee.

The 5 asks that we have developed allows businesses to commit directly to young people. They are proportionate to the current situation but also encourage businesses to do more where they can and as the situation allows.

Since it was launched in November we’ve already travelled a great distance, with 18,000 new opportunities for young people having been developed. There is, however, a great deal that remains to be done.

Young people bring enthusiasm, energy, creativity and diversity to a business and most importantly future proof a skilled workforce for years to come. The Guarantee, offers employers the opportunity to develop a future pipeline of skills and experience with young people at the heart of the workforce. As part of being part of the workforce it is important that young people know their rights. We will look to clearly outline those rights in the next phase of the Young Person’s Guarantee website.

The pandemic and business recovery need not be a barrier to investing in youth and I’ve been constantly inspired this year by the many success stories I’ve heard from Scotland’s employers.

I would encourage every employer and its HR function, to now seize the moment and consider how taking on a young person could benefit your business as well as offering someone a valuable opportunity.

There are options for employers of all sizes to get involved in the Guarantee, in up to five ways:

  • Inspire pupils and college students to gain the skills needed for the world of work
  • Create opportunities for young people who face the greatest barriers to work
  • Create jobs and apprenticeships suitable for 16-24 year olds
  • Create work-based learning, training and upskilling opportunities for young people
  • Ensure a work environment which supports all young people and provides fair work

Now is the time for all of us to commit to supporting Scotland’s young people and ensure their future is a bright one and a fair one.

To find out more about the Young Person’s Guarantee, and how to get involved, visit

Sandy Begbie CBE

Chief Executive at Scottish Financial Enterprise