Shetland Times Column


The Work Minister Roseanna Cunningham visited Brae High School this week. She announced something very sensible. Careers advice and guidance for secondary one pupils - 12 year olds - is to be piloted at Brae and a number of other schools across Scotland. This is not about telling our 1st years that they will be lawyers, plumbers or heaven help them, a politician. It is about talking through the options that offer a way into work. School leads to training, college, university or directly into a job. All are equally valuable. 

Our local economy mirrors many of the challenges in other parts of Scotland and the UK. We need more young boys and girls to have an interest in engineering, building and being a carer. Shetland and the wider world need more of them. Here we are beginning to tackle this. Schools, Scalloway's Maine Centre and Shetland College are working with local companies and businesses to identify what we need and how to attract the next generation into valuable careers.

This is called the Shetland Learning Partnership. Roseanna Cunningham visited the young engineers in Scalloway this week. She was impressed. It is a great programme and is giving young men the training and the academic support they need to get jobs. We need to encourage girls to be interested in this opportunity too just as we need young boys to consider a career in caring. Older readers including your writer recall careers advice at the AHS many moons ago. It came from guidance staff. The world has moved on. But the seminal study into vocational education and industry needs written by oil magnate Sir Ian Wood suggested that careers guidance had to come earlier in secondary school life. Teachers, parents and Skills Development Scotland staff all have an important role to play. I strongly support these developments and am pleased an able and intelligent minister in Roseanna Cunningham is driving this agenda.

I wrote a joint committee report some years back with SNP, Labour and Tory colleagues. We argued for some of these developments then. It is great to see Brae High School being part of this work. With oil and gas on the Delting doorstep this really is a case of Location, location, location.

On the same qualifications theme a less helpful issue emerged this week. People who provide essential companionship for elderly folk in their homes through Crossroads Shetland will be expected to register with a national quango in 2 years time. They will also have to undertake a SVQ qualification. This would be understandable if they were providing personal care. But someone who drops by for a couple of hours to elderly persons home so that the full time carer can take a break, does not need a piece of paper. This is apparently a problem across Scotland and significantly in rural and island areas. So I hope that the Scottish Government will listen to reasonable suggestions that would ease a bureaucratic burden that otherwise could halt an essential service for the elderly.


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