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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, March 9, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 09 March 2017

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Community Jobs Scotland, Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Question Time, Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017 [Draft], Biodiversity, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time


Contents


Community Jobs Scotland

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-03984, in the name of Adam Tomkins, on community jobs Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises and celebrates the continued success of the Community Jobs Scotland employability programme, which is run by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO); understands that Community Jobs Scotland is not a training programme, but provides a paid job for young people in the third sector, with targeted efforts to help hard-to-reach and vulnerable young people into employment; notes that it was established in 2011 when levels of youth unemployment were high and, since this time, phases 1 to 5 of the programme have created paid jobs for 7,049 young people, with an average of 52% being retained by their employer after their job had ended, and a total of 68% positive outcomes into jobs, volunteering or education; welcomes that Community Jobs Scotland adopts a competitive application and interview process before a young person is offered a job and considers that this, alongside compliance with employer policies and procedures, is extremely important for young people in terms of instilling a sense of belonging and collaboration in a real work environment; notes that phase 6, which is currently underway, will support a further 700 job opportunities for vulnerable young unemployed people aged 16 to 29 through a range of third sector organisations across all 32 local authority areas; welcomes the recent announcement of the 7,500th Community Jobs Scotland job, which will see Ryan Brown from Glasgow take on the role of Trainee Development Worker with Move On for one year, and looks forward to welcoming further phases of Community Jobs Scotland long into the future, to help support vulnerable young people in the Glasgow region and across Scotland who have been left behind but who wish to play their full role in Scottish society.

12:50  

This is an apt week to be debating an aspect of policy relating to jobs, employment and skills, for it is Scottish apprenticeship week. On Monday, as many MSPs from around the chamber have done during the course of the week, I visited a local employer not far from where I live in Glasgow and met a number of apprentices who started their careers there with help from Skills Development Scotland. For employers such as the one that I visited—the Little Me Nursery in Anniesland—apprenticeships are an invaluable source of recruitment, and the hands-on skills and career development that an apprenticeship offers is an ideal way for many young people to manage the transition from school to work.

In that context, I am delighted to bring to the chamber this afternoon my motion that not merely recognises, but celebrates, the continued success of the community jobs Scotland employability programme, which is run by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

I thank members from across the political spectrum who have supported today’s motion, and I thank all those who will take part in this afternoon’s debate. None of it would have happened without SCVO, so I am delighted that Craig Wilson and others from SCVO are in—or on their way to—the gallery this afternoon. They have brought with them several young men and women who have benefited from, and taken part in, community jobs Scotland, with organisations such as Move On, North Edinburgh Arts, the Bethany Christian Trust, LEAP Sports Scotland, and LAMH Recycle. We will gather at the foot of the garden lobby steps after the debate and I invite all members to join me in meeting those young men and women. I understand that photo opportunities will be available.

Community jobs Scotland is an employability programme that is designed and delivered by SCVO. It was started in 2011, when levels of youth unemployment were much higher than they are now. It has seen job creation by third sector organisations across all 32 of Scotland’s local authority areas and has now helped some 7,500 young men and women around the country. Supported—I am pleased to say—by the Scottish Government, its latest phase is targeted at young people who are furthest removed from the labour market, including carers, people with disabilities, young people leaving the armed forces and young offenders. It is a competitive process that requires a full application and regular interview.

Every CJS position benefits the community as well as the individual. CJS has allowed overstretched charities to build capacity and to provide improved services, while offering disadvantaged young people the chance to gain skills, experience, confidence and—of course—a wage. They receive at least the minimum wage and, where possible, the living wage. In addition, every CJS employee has access to a £200 flexible training fund.

CJS has an impressive track record of success. The most recent data show that just under half the young people who have used CJS moved into employment, and that 68 per cent of people who used it had positive outcomes in terms of jobs, volunteering or further education. Given that the programme is focused on people who are hardest to reach—people whom some other employability programmes do not reach at all—those are impressive numbers.

Behind the numbers are real human beings. Let me share two stories from my city—Glasgow—that illustrate the great work that community jobs Scotland undertakes. In Govan, just across the river from where I live, a gang of seven young men with a history of offending ran amok and terrorised the community. All the familiar ingredients were there: drugs, violence, vandalism and antisocial behaviour. Govan Housing Association stepped in, as local housing associations so often do, and after a period of working with the members of the gang, the chief executive of Govan Housing Association approached CJS to establish paid jobs for the young men. As a result, they have now learned skills in landscaping, paving and brickwork, and housing stock has been repaired and maintained.

Then there is the story of Ryan Brown—the 7,500th person to be helped by community jobs Scotland. I think that Ryan is here today. Born in the mid-1990s, he grew up amid family breakdown, the tragedy of a baby brother’s cot death, drug and alcohol addiction, and domestic abuse. He was taken into care, but he developed alcohol dependency and gang violence problems of his own. He was convicted and spent some time in prison. He also suffered a number of family bereavements.

However, Ryan was helped by CJS, and he now works with Move On’s housing education service, where he is responsible for working alongside volunteers in education to provide advice and information on housing, life skills, employability and homelessness. I am told that he has now secured his first tenancy and is in a stable relationship. Thanks to CJS, he has a bright future ahead of him.

Those stories and so many more like them underscore two truths that Conservatives have prioritised in developing policy. The first truth is that, for those who can, work represents the best route out of poverty. It also represents the best route out of the chaotic lifestyle of drug and alcohol addiction, violence and antisocial behaviour. That is why it is so important that there are more jobs in the British economy than ever before, more women in employment in Britain than ever before and record numbers of disabled people in work in Britain today.

The second truth is that, unless we address the underlying problems of addiction, family breakdown, disorder and—yes—educational underattainment, we will never break the cycle of multiple deprivation. Robustly confronting and beating those problems requires much more than warm words; it requires bold action, early intervention, transformational investment and—of course—very close working between Government, the private sector and voluntary organisations such as the SCVO.

Across the chamber, every member of the Scottish Parliament is concerned about tackling poverty and deprivation, and getting people away from crime and into work. We have our differences on priorities, of course—I have my list of complaints about the Scottish National Party’s record, just as the minister and his back benchers have, I know, their lists of complaints about the Conservatives—but I have brought this debate to Parliament this afternoon in the hope that it will not be the occasion for a rehearsal of such party-political arguments, but might instead be a moment when we can come together, united in our admiration for the work of the SCVO and in our celebration of the continued and on-going success of community jobs Scotland.

We move to the open debate. We are a wee bit pushed for time, so I ask everyone to be disciplined and to stick to speeches of a maximum of four minutes.

12:57  

I thank Adam Tomkins for lodging the motion and securing today’s debate on the development of such an important programme, and I thank Craig Wilson of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations for his comprehensive briefing.

In national apprenticeship week, there is much to celebrate regarding the success of the community jobs Scotland employability programme. Aimed at helping unemployed and vulnerable young people between the ages of 16 and 29 into paid job-training opportunities, the programme has recently reached the milestone of its 7,500th created job.

First established in 2011 in response to high levels of youth unemployment, this SCVO-run programme created 1,861 paid jobs for young people in its first year alone. By 2016, the number had risen to 7,049 paid jobs. Its success rates are unmistakable, with 52 per cent of participants being reported to have been retained by their employer after the end of their initial job, and a further 68 per cent achieving positive outcomes in jobs, volunteering or education.

Through its competitive application and interview process, community jobs Scotland prides itself in laying the groundwork for the sense of belonging and teamwork that is conducive to young people’s successful integration into the real work environment.

Funding of £6.1 million for phase 6 of the programme, which is currently under way, was announced by the First Minister on 16 February 2016. That extension of an already successful initiative aimed to support a further 700 job opportunities for vulnerable young people through a range of third sector organisations across all 32 local authorities. In North Ayrshire, more than half of which consists of my Cunninghame North constituency, 330 jobs have been created. The young people involved work for 38 different employers.

By including opportunities that are specifically focused on the “Developing the Young Workforce: Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy” recommendations to support young people who are deemed hardest to reach, the programme now contributes to the efforts that were initiated by the commission for developing Scotland’s young workforce to create a world-class vocational education system that is capable of reducing youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021.

The opportunities include ones that are aimed at care-experienced young people, young people with criminal convictions, early service—armed forces—leavers, and carers; 100 ring-fenced places for people with a disability or a long-term health condition; a further 100 places for young people who are progressing from a pilot of pre-CJS work experience opportunities; and continuation of the living wage.

Although the figures that I have mentioned outline the overall success of the programme, it is also rewarding to look at the personal accounts of people whom it has directly benefited. One such commendable individual, about whom we have heard much already, is Ryan Brown from Glasgow; Adam Tomkins talked a lot about his background. Ryan Brown’s was the impressive 7,500th CJS job to be created. He is taking on the role of trainee development worker with Move On for an initial period of one year.

The 20-year-old was recently invited to Holyrood and was commemorated as the 7,500th CJS employee. He remarked that, after making his decision to “choose a new lifestyle”, the programme has allowed him to put the past behind him, and he is now confident that a “really bright future” lies ahead. The programme has assisted him not only in the realm of work, but in his personal relationships and domestic life. He is now in a stable relationship, and he has recently secured his first tenancy. In many cases in the lives of young people, a permanent job creates a sense of security that may previously have been absent. Ryan Brown is but one of the thousands of success stories that the remarkable CJS programme has produced, and it is certain that he will not be the last.

In 2012, the SCVO’s chief executive, Martin Sime, said:

“Investing in young people through the third sector works—it works for the young people who go on to find sustainable full-time jobs and it works for the sector whose capacity to deliver is being stretched like never before.”

It is six years since the programme’s inception, and I am sure that members will agree that those words have stood the test of time, much like the project itself.

As we celebrate its milestone, we acknowledge—of course—that there is always more to be done and that there are always more people to be helped. Therefore, it is vital that we maintain the support that CJS offers in reaching out to vulnerable young people throughout Scotland, who have perhaps been overlooked in the past but who wish to play an active and recognised part in Scottish society, as they deserve to do.

We look forward to welcoming the continued success that future phases of the community jobs Scotland employability programme will undoubtedly bring, thereby granting a bright professional future to as many hard-to-reach young people as possible.

13:01  

I congratulate my friend and colleague Adam Tomkins on bringing this important debate to the chamber and highlighting the many achievements of the community jobs Scotland programme. I commend everyone who is involved with the programme, including the SCVO, for their hard work, which has made it a success. The programme has had a very positive impact on the lives of many young people throughout Scotland. I welcome those in the public gallery who have benefited from the programme and have helped to make it a success.

Since its inception in 2011, the programme has created jobs in all 32 local authority areas in Scotland, including in Stirling, which is in my region. The programme has created almost 150 jobs in the Stirling area in sectors as diverse as conservation and hospitality and in the Scottish Gymnastics Association. In particular, the programme has reached into disadvantaged areas in Stirling through collaboration with bodies such as Raploch Community Enterprise, which has become recognised as a quality training and learning company. With the programme’s help, it has expanded rapidly since its creation less than 10 years ago.

The programme’s successful impact in Stirling is reflected across Scotland. As we have heard, the programme was initially established to address youth unemployment. We have also heard that it has created more than 7,500 jobs in Scotland. That level of job creation in itself is very welcome, but the programme goes further. It provides jobs for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, who often find themselves the furthest away from the jobs market, and provides the opportunity for those young people to acquire skills and training that they can carry forward into the world of work. The programme’s ability to reach young people who are furthest from the market is a unique part of it.

I want to highlight specific examples of CJS helping young people who are furthest away from the market. For example, it helps young people with disabilities or poor health, young people with convictions or care-experienced backgrounds, early service leavers from the armed forces, and young people from ethnic minorities. Often, it gives young people a second chance.

CJS also serves to clearly illustrate that vulnerable young people can and do bring valuable skills to the workforce and the economy. They can become role models by showing that barriers can be overcome and that long-term and sustainable employment or other positive outcomes are possible. As we have heard, the ratio of total positive outcomes from the programme, including jobs, volunteering and people going on to further education, is over 60 per cent. That is a very positive outcome and performance.

In addition to the positive outcomes on jobs and developing the employability of young people who might not otherwise achieve sustainable employment, the programme is further evidence of the efficacy of the prevention agenda as outlined by the Christie commission—targeting those who, we know, face barriers to a successful future. Ignoring those challenges is not an option and virtually guarantees that vulnerable and disadvantaged groups will face poverty, inequality and poor health in the future.

By proactively helping people who face challenges to get into work and furnishing them with skills, confidence and experience, we can improve their life chances and reduce the need for costly state interventions; crucially, we can be optimistic about their futures. The programme clearly demonstrates that.

The programme is unique in the sense that it offers only jobs within Scotland’s dynamic third sector and roles that demonstrate a community benefit. That allows Scotland’s charities to increase capacity, while also helping communities and unemployed, vulnerable young people.

Once again, I thank Adam Tomkins for bringing the issue to the chamber and I congratulate everyone involved in the successful programme.

13:06  

I thank Adam Tomkins for leading the debate on community jobs Scotland, which as we have heard is a programme designed and delivered by the SCVO to help bring down youth unemployment, aimed at people who are furthest from the labour market. I apologise to the Presiding Officer and Adam Tomkins for being unable to stay for the minister’s response, as I have another meeting. However, I wanted to make a speech on a subject area that should preoccupy the Scottish Parliament and to speak up for those who have had the most difficulties in life and who want to make it in the world of work, to get a better life for themselves. That is why most of us came into politics.

The programme that we are discussing is one of the best examples of an initiative that has made a real difference. It shows how important the third sector is as a critical partner for the Government in providing support for vulnerable people. As many members have said, the third sector deserves due recognition for its work at a very difficult time for people who are in work and who need a step up.

Providing a real working environment with a competitive application system is essential in order to prepare people for the real world of work, which includes applying for jobs. We have heard many important stories. Adam Tomkins talked about Ryan Brown’s story, which I have also read about. Ryan has not had an easy life. Many people need a second chance in their life and all they need is a step up, especially when they have the motivation and the talent to get on.

Two particular groups of people have benefited from the programme: people with disabilities and those with care experience. By the time that they are 19 years old, 34 per cent of care leavers are not in education or training. It is very worrying that they have already lost out when they have reached only the age of 19.

Naomi Eisenstadt said, in her advice to the Scottish Government on tackling poverty, that there should be a focus on the 16 to 24 age group because that is a key time in a person’s life that can determine much of their future. One of the key aspects of the community jobs Scotland programme is that it gives young people experience, confidence and—importantly—a wage. Phase 6 of the programme is open only to vulnerable people with disabilities, young people with convictions and homeless people.

One million people in Scotland, which is one in five, have a disability. We will not improve their employment figures without the kind of help that is provided by community jobs Scotland. We know from previous debates that that should be a real focus for the Government, given that half of young disabled people of working age are out of work. Disabled people are more than twice as likely not to have qualifications. According to Inclusion Scotland, disabled people are also significantly more likely to experience unfair treatment at work. A scheme such as CJS, which lets them gain experience in an environment that is set up to help them succeed, will make a life-changing difference to many people with a disability.

I am delighted to support the debate and the work of the SCVO in its community jobs programme.

13:09  

After the political knockabout of an hour ago, I am grateful to Mr Tomkins for bringing some sane and more dignified debate to the Parliament for this brief members’ business debate.

The debate is useful because it gives many of us the chance to say something positive about a community project or something that is happening in our respective areas, as was illustrated by Mr Gibson’s speech. I thank Adam Tomkins for giving me the chance to talk about the Shetland community bike project, which absolutely depends on and would not exist without the community jobs Scotland scheme and the subsidy that is available to help with paid placements.

The bike project depends on all of us in Shetland who have outgrown their bikes, or whose children have outgrown their bikes, to donate old bikes to it, which the team can regenerate—for want of a better word—into something that the retail trade will accept. It is a classic bit of recycling, and it happens because of community jobs Scotland and its placements.

I thank everyone who has been through the scheme, which helps people who have mental health issues, who have a criminal conviction, who are struggling with disability, who have no work experience or who are long-term unemployed. I was talking the other day to the brilliant Caroline Adamson, who runs the Shetland community bike project. The word “outcomes” is beloved in the world of the Parliament these days, but I would rather say that people are the better for undertaking the work. They come out of the programme substance free, the risk of reoffending is reduced and they stay off benefits and pay taxes. They also come out with improved confidence and self-esteem, which in my humble opinion might be one of the most necessary and profound improvements that can be made in a person’s life.

The programme matters. It provides the Shetland community bike project with a training fund of up to £200 per trainee, which enables the project to give individuals valuable training, and it gets people back into work and into areas that they want to get into. In that sense, it is a vital part of the infrastructure in Shetland for helping people who are less fortunate than the rest of us.

That is why community jobs Scotland and the SCVO should be applauded for all their work in the area, on which Adam Tomkins provided a much wider perspective than I have done. Schemes such as the Shetland community bike project make me proud to be a constituency representative, because they make a difference to people whom I cannot dream of helping, and they do so in a very real way.

13:12  

I thank Adam Tomkins for lodging his motion and bringing the debate to the Parliament. I am glad that we are seeing a glimmer of cross-party agreement that the Scottish Government is right to intervene proactively to help marginalised and disadvantaged groups to enter the workplace.

The Scottish Government recognises that some people in our society have specific needs and that many people need support to help them to transition out of unemployment. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, working with the Scottish Government, pioneered the community jobs Scotland programme, which aims to help vulnerable young people into paid job training opportunities in the third sector, as we heard.

I am a mental health nurse, so I was pleased to read the stories from the East Neuk Recovery Group Initiative, in Fife, which provides support for people who have mental health and/or substance abuse issues and has been involved in the community jobs Scotland project. Because the initiative has CJS employees, its drop-in centre has been able to open for an extra two days per week and it has been able to extend its free soup service over the week. In addition, each week, four more people have benefited from outreach and housing support services than would have been possible without community jobs Scotland. Fern, who is one of the CJS employees, now hopes to work in mental health; I wish her all the very best in what is an extremely rewarding and worthwhile career.

Fern’s success is repeated across the programme. The most recent figures show a positive outcome rate of 69 per cent, with more than half the trainees moving into employment. In South Lanarkshire, 370 jobs have been created in CJS programmes, and the positive outcome rate is 55 per cent. That shows that if we invest in people and work with them to help them to build a career, we can change lives.

Let us contrast that positive, progressive, compassionate and highly successful project with the approach of the Department for Work and Pensions. The director of employment services at the SCVO said in 2014 that community jobs Scotland

“stands in stark contrast to the failing Work Programme which is only getting 18% of people into a job”

and that she was “appalled” that the Westminster Government had extended the DWP’s “failing” work programme.

At the DWP, cases are handled not by a passionate, committed body like the SCVO, but by companies such as Atos. Their aims are not to help people such as Fern, and the 370 people in South Lanarkshire, get into the workplace and turn their lives around, but purely to process numbers on a screen. For the DWP, people are there to claim and be moved on. If they can be prevented from claiming, that is all the better.

I know that the Conservatives do not like to talk about it, but the DWP has caused untold stress and worry to people the length and breadth of the country. It has been reported this week in Third Force News that questions such as, “Why have you not killed yourself yet?” have been routinely asked of people who have mental health issues by staff working on behalf of the DWP. I ask everyone here today to reflect on the differences between that approach, and the approach that is taken by community jobs Scotland.

All people who are looking for work need support, and I am so proud of this Government’s work to help those who are most in need of help to establish themselves in the job market with a CV and real prospects. Just imagine what we could do if the Government also had control over the DWP in Scotland. We could extend the successful solutions that even the Scottish Tories acknowledge to everyone who needs help finding a job.

I want to see a benefits system that looks after people when they need it, but which also supports them to get back on their feet when they are ready. In Scotland, we have proved that, with the right support, most people can get into work and build a career and their own self-confidence. I am glad that the Scottish Tories have perhaps inadvertently recognised that. Perhaps they can tell their Westminster colleagues to devolve the DWP so we can help all of Scotland’s unemployed people kick start their careers.

13:17  

I will continue with the consensual approach that we saw earlier.

I am pleased to be able to participate in this afternoon’s debate and I thank my colleague Adam Tomkins for securing it. At the outset, I commend the community jobs Scotland employability programme and highlight its success in the north-east, where there was a 61.6 per cent positive outcome rate for those who took part.

The topic is particularly pertinent this week given that it is Scottish apprenticeship week. I know that colleagues from across the chamber either have already visited or will be visiting employers and speaking with staff and apprentices to hear more about the positive differences that such opportunities can make to our young people and their career paths.

On Monday, I visited an employer in Dundee who has been taking on apprentices for the past six years, including some vulnerable young people. During that visit, we spoke about the importance of making sure that, in such a competitive employment market as the one that exists today, our young people are as ready as they can be to enter the workforce. Initiatives such as community jobs Scotland and the apprenticeship employers, such as the ones I visited this week, have a role to play in assisting with that.

For example, as part of their apprenticeship, the young people I spoke to were given advice on putting together a CV, filling out an application form, and familiarising themselves with the various tests that are a common feature of the application process nowadays. I found it particularly interesting that they were also involved in mock interviews so that they knew how to present themselves and what to expect the first time that they walked into a live job interview. Although the practical experience of working in a company will stand those young people in good stead, such helpful skills will be even more important when it comes to looking for employment at the end of their apprenticeship.

According to the February 2017 labour market statistics, Scotland’s unemployment rate among 18 to 24 years olds was 11.5 per cent, which is 11.5 per cent too much. While those figures represent a decrease when compared to the previous year’s statistics, it is clear that more still needs to be done to engage with those young people in Scotland who are that bit harder to reach, but who would benefit enormously from an opportunity such as those that are offered by the community jobs Scotland employability programme.

That is why I supported the announcement last month that funding has been made available for phase 6 of the programme, which, as stated in the motion, will support the creation of up to 700 job training opportunities, including opportunities that are specifically designed to support young people in our care system, people with criminal convictions, carers and early service leavers from the military. I am also pleased that there will be 100 ring-fenced places for those who have a disability or long-term health condition.

Every young person in our country deserves the chance to succeed and to reach their full potential. Anything that we in this chamber can do, together, to support them and nurture their talent, we should do.

13:20  

I add my thanks to Adam Tomkins for bringing the debate to the chamber. It is important that we celebrate this fantastic scheme that the SCVO is responsible for. It is a fantastic opportunity to talk about what we need to do to boost employment and employability. It is also a huge pleasure for me because I was the sponsor of the SCVO reception at which Ryan Brown received his award as the 7,500th CJS employee.

It was a huge pleasure for me; it was also a huge pleasure to be complimented on what I said that day. I was complimented mainly on speaking for less than a minute—I know that members across the chamber hope that I take that hint today. However, it was a good thing that I spoke for less than a minute that day mainly because it meant that we could hear Ryan tell his story. It is only by hearing such stories that we truly understand the frustrations and difficulties that so many people have in finding employment. Ryan’s story illustrates that truth. I do not want to embarrass him—I see him up in the public gallery. Colleagues have already spoken about the facts. However, for me, it was about the emotions in his story; we could all feel the frustrations that he felt, growing up in a family that was loving but blighted by both drugs and alcohol addiction.

It was a sad story; I do not think that there was a dry eye in the house when we heard about the deaths that Ryan has encountered. Because of that tragedy and those frustrations, we could see how that cycle could so easily have repeated itself and gone on. We could see why it was of such huge benefit that community jobs Scotland existed and was able to hold out that helping hand to Ryan. Finally, we could feel the emotion of pride—we could all see the pride that Ryan had because he had secured his first tenancy and was in a stable relationship. For me, it was also about the pride that he felt about being the role model for his younger brother, because we all need role models if we are to see how to take opportunities in life. If people do not have those role models or that assistance, how can we expect things to be different?

That is why the scheme is so important, because the barriers to employment are not simply about the ability to take a job; people need active assistance, which is what this scheme provides. It is about supporting and reaching out to those who are far from the job market. For me, ultimately, work is the most important and precious thing to ensure that people have in society because it is work that provides opportunity, breaks poverty and breaks the cycle of despair that blights so many of our communities.

Dean Lockhart did an excellent job earlier of explaining how many different groups can get help through such schemes. It is fantastic that we are here to celebrate community jobs Scotland because, apart from anything else, it represents a truly successful partnership between Government and the third sector. I do not want any members on the SNP benches to fall off their chairs, but we should celebrate what the Scottish Government has done in this partnership.

It is partnerships such as this that can make a difference. I congratulate the Scottish Government on investing £50 million in community jobs Scotland, because it is exactly the sort of thing that we need to do to break the cycle of poverty—and, frankly, frustration—that occurs in too many communities. It is exactly the sort of thing that we should be looking at in apprenticeship week. We should be looking how we can form partnerships between Government and third sector organisations to boost opportunity, increase employment and, ultimately, improve opportunity for everyone in our communities.

13:24  

I welcome this debate, which my friend and colleague Adam Tomkins has secured, on the important topic of community jobs Scotland. I also welcome everyone involved in CJS who joins us in the public gallery today.

As the motion rightly points out, community jobs Scotland is not a training programme; it provides a paid job for young people in the third sector, with targeted efforts to help hard-to-reach and vulnerable young people into employment. That is an important distinction to make. Community jobs Scotland offers paid work for those who want to get up and go—those who want to get involved, get to work and contribute. It provides that opportunity to those who might well struggle to find it otherwise.

This is not a handout. There is a competitive application process and an interview before any offer is made. That places much value on the job and gives a sense of ownership and pride in the role. It also gives a taste of the real work environment and provides valuable experience of the recruitment process. As an employer, I understand the significance of that.

The programme has been a success. Since 2011, it has created paid jobs for just over 7,000 young people and a total of 68 per cent positive outcomes into jobs, volunteering or education. However, on average, just 52 per cent of people have been retained by their employer after their job has ended, and I would like to see that figure improve.

The motion highlights the successes from Glasgow. The latest we have heard about today is Ryan Brown, who will soon take on the role of trainee development worker with Move On. The stories of the seven young men—Dominic Gibbons, Callum McLeod, Lee Mulheron, Calum Borland, Kevin O’Donnell, Barry O’Donnell and Gordon McCabe—show how they turned their lives around with help from community jobs Scotland. They helped to repair and maintain housing stock in the Govan Housing Association, as Adam Tomkins pointed out earlier. All I would say is, “Where are the girls?”

In the South Scotland region, more than 1,000 jobs have been created and there have been 64 per cent positive outcomes. The jobs range from administrative assistant to assistant hockey development coach, from multimedia and publicity assistant to interior design assistant, which sounds quite appealing. There are many different jobs out there that can provide the level of experience to allow the person to go on and be successful in the field that they want to get into. For example, if an applicant has an interest in bikes, a related role can be found.

Community jobs Scotland caters for all and is open to all. It does not force anyone in a particular direction but instead helps people enter their preferred profession.

The good work continues: phase 6, which is now under way, will help to create a further 700 job opportunities for vulnerable young unemployed people aged 16 to 29, through a range of third sector organisations, across all 32 local authorities.

I would briefly like to touch on some of the organisations that participate in my region. The aim of Apex Borders is to reduce reoffending, tackle deprivation and make communities safer. Those who have been involved with Apex Borders have said:

“My confidence in myself and other people has increased. By attending this course I now feel more confident in getting out of the house, travelling on public transport and doing something for me.”

Another said:

“Apex has given me the tools, support and confidence in order to get me where I want to be in life.”

Those statements are testament to the great work that Apex Borders does and the positive impact that it has.

The Dunbar community kitchen, which is situated in the community centre where I hold my surgeries, makes the best use of local produce. The cafe has strong links with the local fishmonger, butcher and greengrocer and will happily use up garden surplus from local allotments. Most importantly, it gives opportunities to those who want a career in hospitality and catering. I can unreservedly recommend the homemade scones.

Peebles CAN is another example in the Borders, working towards building community resilience and sustainability.

Ultimately, all those organisations play a great role, giving opportunities to those who want to go and get them and who have a hard-work ethic and can-do attitude. I pay tribute to all those involved and those in the gallery attending today. I wish you the best of luck in the future.

13:29  

I join others in thanking Adam Tomkins for bringing forward the motion for debate. As he, Bill Bowman, Daniel Johnson and possibly others mentioned, this week is Scottish apprenticeship week, so it is a timely juncture at which to have this debate, although we debated apprenticeship week last week when Fulton MacGregor brought forward a members’ business debate.

I know that many members, as we have heard, have undertaken a range of visits associated with apprenticeship week. As members might expect from me, given my ministerial role, I have undertaken a range of visits as well, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity. I tie the apprenticeship week to the community jobs Scotland programme because I have encountered, as I am sure other members have, a number of modern apprentices who began their journey to undertaking an apprenticeship by engaging with exactly the same type of programme. That allowed them to begin their employability journey and progress towards an apprenticeship. That is an important reminder that the community jobs Scotland programme is part of a family of employability and training initiatives that we offer.

For apprenticeship week, we will be out visiting and seeing opportunities for apprentices in our constituencies. However, members have rightly highlighted, as sometimes happens in a members’ business debate, activities in their constituencies that are associated with the subject of today’s debate, which is the community jobs Scotland programme. I have an example in my constituency in that the Scottish Wildlife Trust in Cumbernauld takes part in the programme. I encourage all members taking part in the debate—and, indeed, those who are not here—who have not yet availed themselves of the opportunity to go along and see some of the community jobs Scotland activities taking place in their constituencies.

I join other members in welcoming the community jobs Scotland employers and employees who have come to the public gallery today to listen to the debate, and I will be happy to join them in the garden lobby afterwards. As I am sure members are aware, the Scottish Government values our community jobs Scotland offering, which we fund the SCVO to deliver. The First Minister announced at the recent gathering event in Glasgow that we will continue our commitment to community jobs Scotland, with a further £6.1 million for the coming financial year, which will be phase 7 of the programme, maintaining the £6.1 million that we provided in this financial year for phase 6.

I, too, had the pleasure of attending the gathering event, where I outlined some of the detail of the programme for next year. I will not reiterate that, because I think that it has already been highlighted in the debate. However, the theme of the gathering this year was celebrating the success of community jobs Scotland. I was delighted to have the opportunity to highlight from my perspective some of the successes of the programme. Since taking up my role as Minister for Employability and Training, I have been hugely—overwhelmingly—impressed by the dedication and commitment of the third sector in ensuring that young people are afforded the opportunity to achieve successful outcomes through programmes such as community jobs Scotland. It is, of course, one of our most valuable and successful youth employability interventions. Participating in the programme gives young people the chance to experience the world of work and acquire skills through training and industry-recognised accreditation. That is an important foundation that young people can build on as they continue on their career path.

Adam Tomkins, Pauline McNeill and Rachael Hamilton made the important point that we should recognise that people get community jobs Scotland opportunities through a competitive interview process. Not all our programmes are based on that methodology, but the community jobs Scotland programme is. That interview process is an important element, because it reflects the reality for most in the labour market. Young people participating in the community jobs Scotland programme will therefore acquire a skill set and gain valuable experience from going through the interview process as well as from participating in the programme.

Attending the gathering event allowed me to put on the record what I view as the success of the community jobs Scotland programme, but Daniel Johnson was right to say that the best people to hear from about that are those who have participated in the programme. Ryan Brown, who has been mentioned, was at the gathering event and I was happy to speak with him. The Govan Housing Association, which Adam Tomkins mentioned, was also at the event, which provided a good opportunity to hear about the benefits not only for the young people who take part in the programme but for employers. The housing association was effusive in its praise for the programme.

I also heard from Andrew Marshall, who works for LEAP Sports Scotland, which I believe is here at the Parliament today—Andrew may himself be here. He talked about the experience of going through university and graduating and then finding it hard to access employment for a variety of reasons. He was able to get into work through taking part in the community jobs Scotland programme.

With due respect to those individuals, who were all very compelling speakers, I was really taken with the experience of Jamie Rowan, who works with the Neilston Development Trust as a cycle mechanic and chief of facilities, delivering workshops in schools and in the community. Jamie was a young man who had a difficult start in life and ended up being detained in custody at Low Moss prison. He spoke compellingly about the great benefits to him as a result of interacting with the programme—not only in gaining access to the labour market but in turning his entire life around. It was a salient reminder of the importance of this type of programme, not only in providing young people with the opportunity to get into the labour market but in enabling them to get their entire life on track. That is why the programme is so important, because it is about the critical element of providing training and getting people into work and is a chance to turn lives around.

We see very positive outcomes—the term that Tavish Scott likes—through the initiatives and, more fundamentally, we achieve great things for individual human beings through the programme. That is why I am very proud that we support it as an Administration. I look forward to the programme continuing to achieve great success in phase 7 in the coming financial year.

13:36 Meeting suspended.  

14:30 On resuming—