9 Conclusions and Recommendations
9.1 This chapter draws out the main conclusions arising from the evaluation highlighting key learning points for the Scottish Government and partners. It then goes on to set out recommendations for the future support to employers to provide jobs leading to sustained employment for young people.
9.2 The YESF was introduced at a time of high youth unemployment in Scotland, when entry to the labour market was difficult and being young was a significant barrier, even for graduates. It was responsive to the circumstances at the time and getting it up and running nationally and locally within the timescales was a key achievement. This was possible through the close partnership working within and between the Scottish Government and Local Authorities.
9.3 The YESF has been successful in providing jobs to young people across Scotland. At the time of the evaluation, almost 9,500 young people (based on Local Authority data) had participated in YESF jobs and this number is likely to increase as the Fund reaches the end of its final phase.
9.4 Young people have benefited in a number of ways. They have developed hard skills related to their job; they have gained qualifications for example through MAs; they have gained and been able to demonstrate soft skills such as time keeping, team working and motivation and they have improved their employment prospects and future career progression. Young people also reported that it had positively impacted on their confidence, career aspirations and widened their networks.
9.5 The key aim of the YESF was to help young people into sustained employment and the evidence clearly demonstrates that it has been successful in achieving this, with monitoring data showing that 64% of the young people who started YESF maintained sustained employment at the end of the ERI. A further 5% moved on to another positive destination such as FE or training.
9.6 Employers have also benefited from providing YESF jobs. They were able to increase their capacity for the period of the ERI at a lower cost to the business, bring in new, fresh ideas and attitudes and address issue of an ageing and sometimes stagnating workforce. Many businesses also perceived that they could assess a young person's suitability for the role before committing to employing them permanently although the young person was provided with a permanent contract from the outset. The YESF ERI encouraged some employers to recruit a young person in place of recruiting a more experienced worker and in many cases the creation of a new post for the young person was possible, directly as a result of the financial support available.
9.7 Local Authorities have also benefited from the YESF, by moving young people in to employment, it has contributed to achieving their youth employment strategic objectives. It has also helped them to engage more effectively with employers and build positive working relationships which has enhanced local employability work and benefitted other functions such as economic development.
9.8 The YESF presented some challenges although there is no evidence to suggest that these detracted from the impacts over the life of the programme. Local Authorities with existing employability initiatives successfully integrated the YESF into the provision and tended to find it less challenging to implement the Fund than authorities with no existing provision.
9.9 Compliance was an issue both for Local Authorities who found it to be resource-intensive and for employers who were required to provide very detailed information to make a claim. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some employers did not claim the ERI due to the compliance requirements, again, this does not appear to have been a significant issue.
9.10 There is overwhelming agreement that ERIs are an effective means of encouraging employers to provide a job to young people with a view to offering sustained employment at the end of the period. It reduces the risk to the employers and can encourage them to take on a young person as opposed to a more experienced worker. However, employers, Local Authorities and stakeholders believe that the value of the ERI is enhanced for some where pre-employment training is provided, for example through employability initiatives. Employers also noted that they may need additional support, including practical support to provide a job to a targeted young person for example someone with a disability.
9.11 Some aspects of the guidance from the Scottish Government was open to interpretation which led to a degree of inconsistency between Local Authority areas. Whilst this was not necessarily an issue, and flexibility at local level was a deliberate feature of the Fund, it led to some confusion, particularly for employers and partners working in more than one area. It also meant that how, and the extent to which, Local Authorities monitored the Fund and assessed the impacts varied which was a challenge for the evaluation.
9.12 There is evidence that some of the YESF young people were already in employment (perhaps only having just started) and at that point, the job was converted to a YESF job to enable the employer to access the ERI. Where this occurred, the Local Authorities believed this met eligibility criteria, whilst in other areas, the Local Authorities did not consider young people already in employment to be eligible. This highlights the importance of clear guidance and information.
9.13 Despite these issues, on the whole, the localised approach to delivery was a strength of the Fund. It allowed Local Authorities to align the YESF ERI with local employability activities and add significant value.
9.14 Although the YESF is coming to an end (at the time of writing) and delivery of Scotland's Employer Recruitment Incentive (SERI) has commenced[  , there are some recommendations for the Scottish Government and partners to consider for the future.
Recommendation 1: Communication. There should be clear, consistent and timely guidance at the start of the programme. Mechanisms for on-going communication should be reviewed regularly to ensure that important updates and messages are being effectively communicated and are reaching the target audience.
Recommendation 2: Coherence across partners. Funding partners must work closely together before launching a programme, and on an on-going basis to present a coherent offer to delivery partners that meets a minimum national standard but takes account of local initiatives and circumstance.
Recommendation 3: Marketing. Peer recruitment should be a key strand of a programme's engagement strategy, using case studies, advocacy and providing opinion leaders with information to help engage employers and young people. Social media campaigns are effective in engaging young people and reinforcing messages.
Recommendation 4: Monitoring. A monitoring and evaluation framework should be an integral part of a programme's development and agreed form the outset. This will mean that strategic and delivery partners are agreed and are clear on what will be collected, in what format and how and when it will be reported. It will include the level of detail required about the characteristics of participants. This will ensure that progress, outcomes and impacts can be monitored and assessed and where necessary, adjustments made to maximise the efficacy of the programme and its reach in to the target population.
Recommendation 5: Compliance. Where possible administration and compliance requirements should be as straightforward and consistent as funding regimes allow. The processes should take account of the nature, experience and capacity of the organisations that will have to complete the compliance process e.g. micro and small businesses can face particular challenges. Support is important to help employers address any issues of demonstrating compliance.
Recommendation 6: Setting targets. Targets should be set using evidence at local level where it is available e.g. on deliverability, capacity, economic context, existing employability activities and outputs of other/previous interventions.
Recommendation 7: Employer Recruitment Incentives. ERIs are effective in encouraging employers to provide jobs and sustained employment to young people. This approach should be an integral part of future employability programmes but against a backdrop of an improving youth labour market, should be focussed on those who are further from the labour market, can be optimised with pre-employability training, through-care and aftercare. Where possible, flexibility should be built in to how the ERI can used to remove barriers to employing young people and this should be about the specific young person's needs.
Recommendation 8: Flexibility at local level. A positive feature of YESF is that National ERI programmes had the capacity to be delivered flexibly to respond to local need and circumstance but with clear guidance (as above) to ensure appropriate levels of consistency and compliance to programme criteria. This flexibility should be maintained.
Recommendation 9: Providing the jobs. Employers should be given clear guidance about the expectations and commitments required of them in providing a job. This should include what they are expected to provide to the young person during the ERI. Consideration should be given to this taking the form of a formal agreement between the employer and the Council. It would also set out what the Council is agreeing to provide for example, any additional support.
Recommendation 10: Support to employers. Some employers, particularly smaller ones, may benefit from practical support, for example help to find and recruit a suitable young person, assistance to prepare an induction programme and so forth. This type of support is available through Business Gateway and a selection of local on-line tools. Additional support could potentially be provided as an on-line resource at national level, with local flexibilities.
Recommendation 11: Targeted Young People. The Targeted ERI was available in conjunction with the YESF to provide support to employers to employ targeted groups of young people facing specific barriers to employment. However, the findings show that for some employers it did not fully meet their needs in terms of practical advice or they were not aware that it was available. Consideration should be given to ensuring that all additional support is promoted to employers. This could include signposting employers to external sources of advice and information.
Email: Sharon Hamilton, Sharon.Hamilton@gov.scot