Young people benefiting from a £500,000 workforce initiative in Perth and Kinross have met Deputy First Minister and Perthshire North MSP John Swinney to discuss the strategy.

Blairgowrie High School pupils Andrew McFarlane and Callum Ritchie discussed the benefits of partnerships between education and employers to help young people get vital work experience.

They took part in a meeting hosted by Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Perth and Kinross, which is part of a wider national initiative funded by the Scottish Government to help more young people into work and ensure employers have access to the skills they need. Nationally, the aim is to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021 through connecting business and education.

Mr Swinney heard how local mentoring programmes, a focus on apprenticeships and other innovative initiatives are making a significant impact on local young people and helping the region’s businesses.

Andrew McFarlane took part in the Career Ready programme, which offers mentoring, master classes and a paid internship, and was supported by financial services company Aviva in Perth. The programme shaped his decision to leave school after fifth year to go straight into work.

He said: “I knew I wanted to work in business, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there. The Career Ready programmed really opened my eyes and gave me the experience and confidence to make the decision to leave school and go straight into work. I have no regrets, I’m learning whilst earning and doing a job I love.”

Andrew is now employed full time as a Commercial Underwriter at Aviva, which has been involved with Career Ready since 2012 and is a strong supporter of the DYW Programme.

John Duncan, Performance Consultant at Aviva said: “Investing in the young workforce is an area of significant focus for Aviva. What young people lack in experience, they make up for in their positive, can-do approach to life and work. As an organisation, we are fully committed to DYW and would urge other organisations, large and small, to get involved.”

Callum Ritchie, a fifth year pupil at Blairgowrie High School, is currently in his second year of a Foundation Apprenticeship at  Perth College UHI.

He said: “College offers a more flexible approach to learning and can be incorporated into my normal school week. It also allows me to get exposure to real-life work opportunities with local employers which will really help when applying for jobs when I leave school. This is something I would never have got as part of my normal school timetable.”

John Swinney said: “It was a pleasure to meet with Callum and Andrew and to learn more about the work that they are doing as part of their mentoring and apprenticeship programmes. It was wonderful to see that they are gaining practical, work skills while continuing their education.

The Scottish Government is committed to reducing youth unemployment. The Developing the Young Workforce – Youth Employment Strategy is central to that ambition and I am delighted to see it benefiting young people in Perthshire North.”

Steven Stewart, Chair of DYW Perth and Kinross, said: “Callum and Andrew are great examples of how closer ties between education and business can lead to real jobs and new opportunities for our young people. There are big benefits for employers too, from helping to develop the management skills of your team to tapping into a pipeline of young talented employees.

“We’re here to ensure that all of our young people have access to a pathway that’s right for them, whether that’s getting a job straight from school, being self-employed, starting an apprenticeship or training or deciding to pursue further studies. We can only do this with the help of our local employers and we’d urge more to get involved, particularly the small businesses which are the lifeblood of our regional economy here in Perth and Kinross.”

* Employers who would like to find out more and get involved should contact the local DYW team: Fiona Reith, Developing Young Workforce Manager, email: or mobile 07801 208577.

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