Politicians from all parties must “up their game” to help support young people who do not attend university, Ruth Davidson has said.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday for the first time since her return to Holyrood following maternity leave, the Conservative leader said young people are being let down by the Scottish Government.
She claimed one in five (20%) 16 to 19-year-olds are leaving school in Scotland without any form of education or formal training – a figure she said has been “flat-lining for years”.
She called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to back the introduction of a skills participation age of 18.
It would mean young people continuing in learning or training until this age.
Ms Davidson said: “This is a pretty serious proposal and there is no reason why it can’t command cross-party support.
“I believe that we could all agree that we’re not doing nearly enough for young people who don’t go to university and that politicians of all stripes need to up our game in our delivery for them.
“We’re not the only people that are talking about a skills participation age of 18.
“It already works well in Belgium, in Denmark and in the Netherlands, and it had previously been proposed here in Scotland too.
“But when this SNP Government came to power, the idea was quietly dropped with no explanation ever really given as to why. Does the First Minister believe that that was a mistake?”
Ms Sturgeon said youth unemployment in Scotland has dropped by 40% in five years, and 95% of school leavers went on to work, training or study within three months.
She said: “I think the policies we are pursuing to make sure more of our young people leave school with qualifications, more of our young people go into work, training or further study, I think these are the right policies to pursue and we’ll continue to do so.
“We have reduced youth unemployment in this country by 40% in the last five years.
“We also see modern apprenticeships increasing, there are now foundation apprenticeships available at the vast majority of secondary schools across our country, that is also increasing.
“So more of our young people are leaving school with qualifications, more of our young people are leaving school with vocational qualifications, and more of our young people than ever before are going into good, positive, meaningful destinations.
“And also the attainment gap there is narrowing as well. So we will continue to pursue and implement the policies that are delivering these results for young people all over our country.”