— By Alan Mackie, Research Associate, University of Edinburgh, UK

SYPOn Saturday 9th June Ellen and I travelled the 12 hour round-trip (train delays!) from Edinburgh to Stranraer to meet with a group of Scottish Youth Parliamentarians in order to seek their input into our ENLIVEN research. Each European partner has to seek the input of a ‘youth panel’ and the Scottish Youth Parliament were happy to act as ours, since we are seeking to take the young people’s views on board as part of our research.

Working in collaboration with MSYP Mark Stewart (MSYP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth and Convener of the Education and Lifelong Learning Committee) and Laura Pasternak (Public Affairs Officer for the SYP) we conducted a session with a group of 16 young people who had selected our workshop #NoWrongPath as part of their day of events.

Our session sought to explore the young people’s understandings of the programmes that we are currently researching across Europe as part of the ENLIVEN Project. That is, the kinds of programmes that seek to re-engage young people in education and employment and who may have left school with few, if any, qualifications.

In Scotland we have conducted research with policy-makers, practitioners and young people engaged on, firstly, an Activity Agreement Programme (stage 1 of the ‘Employability Pipeline’) within a rural community and, secondly, an introductory level college course in a major city in Scotland, which sits at SCQF Level 4.

In order to give the young parliamentarians an idea of the issues affecting the young people in our research we had ‘speech bubbles’ around the room which illustrated some of the barriers that our participants faced (and were still facing). We felt it was important to illustrate the diversity of experiences that young people face as they attempt to move from school into further/higher education or employment:

Speech bubble 1Speech bubble 2
Speech bubble 3Speech bubble 4

Our interactive session used a road map and a variety of different stickers in order to explore what the young people thought were the main barriers, supports and attitudes that can hinder and help young people in the school-to-work transition.

Road map 1Stickers

We also sought their input into what kinds of supports could be in place to aid young people struggling in this transition – as well as exploring the attitudes that exist towards non-university pathways, particularly those programmes that we are currently engaged in researching.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the young people identified similar barriers to what we have uncovered in our research:

  • Issues related to mental health – stress, anxiety, depression
  • Family breakdown
  • Caring responsibilities
  • Financial Pressures
  • Poor qualifications
  • Bereavement
  • Lack of support for Additional Support Needs (ASN)
  • Lack of available and accessible jobs (particularly for those living in rural areas)
  • Transport issues, (again, particularly for those living in rural areas)

The young people felt that much could be done to support young people, with greater financial support for those who need it, better support for those young people identified as having ASN, counselling services and greater awareness of the mental health issues currently affecting young people, respite services for those that require it, improved transport links (and affordability for young people) amongst others.

Discussion 1Discussion 2Discussion 3Discussion 4

There was some discussion on the esteem that non-university pathways are held in with some suggesting that they are seen as lesser and suggesting that school staff were particularly keen to steer young people away from non-university paths. Others, however, suggested that there may be geographical issues at play as some localities are good at ‘selling’ the education available in Further Education (FE) institutions and that these are not seen as unattractive options for young people in those particular areas.

We will now take the views of the young people forward as part of the ENLIVEN Project. Our European partners in England and Slovakia have already met with their youth panels so it will be interesting to compare the input of young people across Europe, as other European partners conduct their youth panels.

Group photo
We would like to thank the Scottish Youth Parliament for working with us and a particular thanks to Laura and Mark as well as the young people that came to our session.