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Equality in the Developing the Young Workforce strategy

Published: 08/09/2015

Freya Douglas, Programme Manager (Scotland), attended a Scottish Government event on Tuesday 25 August to discuss how equality featured in the plans for implementing the Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) strategy.

It was great that ECU was invited to participate in the Scottish Government’s recent event on DYW; there was an impressive amount of expertise in the room, representing a wide range of equality focused organisations.

I think ECU has a relatively unique view of how equality is being implemented across the five ‘change themes’ of DYW (which span from schools through to employers). We are funded to support equality in colleges, who are involved in change themes two and three, and we are also increasingly working with Skills Development Scotland and Education Scotland on their DYW equality work.

Here are my reflections on the event:

There was something of a debate about how aspirational the government’s equality targets should be. I think aspirations are important, and stretching, long-term targets from the Scottish Government are necessary to drive change. Without this ambition, would the sector be taking such significant action?

And let’s be clear, this challenge hasn’t been set out of thin air by Scottish Government. It’s dictated by the reality of the differences in educational and employment outcomes for different groups, and by the mission statements and responsibilities of the sector. Even without official targets (or with less stretching targets), this would still be the challenge facing the Scottish education sector.

This sentiment was strongly echoed by a group of college senior managers, who met at ECU’s June event on equality in DYW, and emphasised the need for ‘systemic change’ in access and outcomes for equality groups and supported a strong stance by Scottish Government.

One area that wasn’t explored at the event was how equality should feature in initial teacher training and CPD, and for early years care staff. General plans for training and CPD were outlined, but how greater equality competence will be developed through this activity was not articulated. Upskilling teachers in equality will be crucial to delivering the ambitions of DYW. For instance, in delivering Education Scotland’s new standards on career advice and work placements, which are high level policies that will require a more detailed understanding of equality than is currently evident in schools (and in core policies such as curriculum for excellence). This is also one of the most important ways universities and colleges intersect with, and can influence, school and early years education (respectively), and seems to be a missed opportunity.

Similarly, engagement with parents on education and equality is vital, but it didn’t seem like this had been fully considered. Most responsibility appears to be falling on teachers and schools. We know that a child’s educational aspirations, values and understandings of, for example, gender norms are greatly influenced by parents (including what children see demonstrated in front of them and by factors like whether or not a mother is in employment). At ECU’s June DYW event, Education Scotland argued parents are a key stakeholder as students navigate subject choices and start considering career paths. If the government is aiming for a holistic approach to improving educational and employment outcomes for different groups, this should include a strong emphasis on parental engagement.

Finally, one of the key concerns about DYW in colleges specifically is the seeming focus on gender and the impact this could have on their work with other equality groups. We were encouraged to hear the government addressing this directly, recognising the need not to ignore other groups, and saying that after gender, they are considering looking at race in colleges.