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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
23rd August 2013

THIS WEEK, there’s a theme around skills. Skills for employability, skills for life and the skills we need to help others to enjoy their lives to the full.

But let’s start off with the young people. Just a couple of weeks back, they learned how they’d done in both Standard and Higher grade exams.

South Lanarkshire Council’s Head of Education, Tony McDaid, said: “We are delighted to see the hard work of pupils and staff paying off. The results show a pleasing trend of improved learning outcomes for young people and help provide an excellent platform for those pupils leaving school and moving on to the next phase of their lives.”

Indeed. Now these young people start the next leg of their journey, whether that’s to further or higher education, off for a gap year or moving towards an apprenticeship for example.

Which leads me naturally on to an event this week. I met with some of the folk from Skills Development Scotland and Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE).

Brian Cameron, South Lanarkshire Area Manager of SDS (left) and Eric Foy, local PACE contact based in Hamilton.

I got a great briefing on the progress they’ve made with apprenticeships in the area. That’s something the Scottish Government is putting a huge amount of effort into and is delivering 25,000 places every year for the life of this Parliament. And those aren’t just training places. There’s a guaranteed job alongside.

To state the obvious, employers need to be able to identify the young people whom they judge will work well, train well, be committed and enthusiastic in whatever environment career choice they make. In the past, employers often felt their needs weren’t being properly listened to. With SDS and the driver of Government policy, that interface has moved to the centre of what SDS does.

Every 16-19 year old in Scotland is guaranteed the offer of a place in education or training. To make those placements effective and sustainable, SDS has to work to a Letter of Guidance where the Scottish Ministers set out key targets, objectives and priorities for the year ahead.

Clearly it’s working. The number of young people out of work in Scotland fell for the fifth consecutive month in July. Over the country, that means in the last year the total figure has dropped to 29,000 or 16.4% compared to the 20.4% for the UK overall.

My colleague, Angela Constance, MSP, who is Youth Employment Minister, stressed: “I firmly believe it is no coincident that such positive news follows strong action from the Scottish Government to address what is a stubborn problem Europe-wide.

Angela Constance, MSP, Youth Employment Minister

Angela emphasised also that: “We have helped thousands into opportunities in the third sector, including over 3000 young people through Community Jobs Scotland.”

And that leads me onto another project I visited this week and I have put forward a Parliamentary Motion in support of it.

Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire (VASLan fully deserves to be congratulated on the launch of its Good Morning South Lanarkshire scheme. Like the best of community action, this scheme helps both suppliers – volunteers – and recipients – the vulnerable elderly.

This is a new call line providing regular contact with older people so as to make sure they are safe and well. It also acts as an early warning system if something might be wrong or there are any problems of feeling fearful or isolated.

That of course is a valuable service in itself but there’s an extra dimension to it. The calls are made by young volunteers from VASLan’s Employability Project. They will be fully trained to undertake the task and will learn new skills that can improve career and work prospects.

The older people themselves will love to hear the sound of a young person’s voice in the morning, I’m sure. They can put themselves forward to receive the daily call , or a friend, member of the family or social services can refer on.

The calls are short, just a few minutes, but if there is no response, the call will be repeated three times at 10 minute intervals. Failure to get a response will bring an emergency contact or social services to check the situation.

Teeda Boyd is the Locality Officer of Reshaping Care for Older People and I met her at the launch of the new Hamilton-based scheme, along with some of the young volunteers who really impressed me. They are clearly compassionate, committed and enthusiastic about what they’re doing.

Teeda Boyd, Locality Officer, Reshaping Care for Older People

The Reshaping Care for Older people is a Scottish Government initiative aimed at reducing unnecessary hospital admissions and emergency care in our ageing population. Money from the Reshaping Care Change Fund is being used to find alternatives such as community-based care and ways of keeping older people health and safe in their own homes.

As the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Alex Neil, MSP said on the subject: “I believe it is only right that older people feel fully supported to live at home or in a homely setting within their own communities for as long as possible. We want to avoid any older person having to stay in hospital unnecessarily because they couldn’t be cared for properly in their communities. We are extremely focused on offering the intensive support they need as well as continuing to shift in the balance of care towards providing care at home to enable the to live as full a life as possible.”

And finally, one other note of congratulation and another Parliamentary Motion to support it. This time it’s Hamilton Gymnastics Club which has been awarded £2000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s 2014 Communities programme. With Scotland looking forward to the Commonwealth Games next summer, these young gymnasts could be future competitors.

The club will use the money to develop disability gymnastics by supporting people aiming for coaching qualifications and providing funding for professional coaching fees and two Gymnova coaching blocks so as to encourage more disabled people to be involved with the sport.

Good on them all!

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