30th November 2023

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce.

It’s late November, and thankfully COVID-19 no longer threatens to cast a shadow over festive celebrations as in previous years. But the lasting impact of the pandemic and its impact on our young people and indeed our young workforce is still something we are yet to fathom the full impact of.

During the peak of the pandemic youth unemployment in Scotland soared to 14.2% in Q3 of 2020[1] and the youth labour market shrank, as key sectors employing young people – tourism, hospitality, retail, leisure and entertainment – were hit with lockdowns and government restrictions. This led to a disproportionate number of young people in the 16-24 age group facing employment losses due to furlough, job losses and reduction in hours. This burden, coupled with social isolation, school and further education closures, missed experiences and loss of pivotal opportunities has led to significant and ongoing disadvantages for our younger generations, leaving many ill-prepared for the world of work through no fault of their own.

The COVID-19 crisis was unprecedented because it transcended all aspects of life. While we strove for a recovery, a slow steady process of finding a new normal, grieving and rebuilding, many people across professions and sectors struggled with the resilience required to ‘bounce back’. For our young people, at the cusp of adulthood and still finding their way in the world this task was, and still is enormous.

According to a YoungMinds survey 67%[2] of young people aged 13-25 years old believed that the pandemic would have a long-term negative effect on their mental health. Our own survey of North Highland pupils for the Focus North Conference[3], also highlighted our young people were struggling. In response to a question regarding personal skills to help prepare for the future, alarmingly 59.4% said confidence, 43.8% said stress or anxiety management and 38.8% motivation.

We are encouraging employers to be considerate of the challenges our young people are facing and understanding of the skills gaps and inexperience. Young people need to be empowered with the knowledge and tools in order to flourish independently, and we all have a part to play in ensuring this happens.

Developing Young Workforce (DYW) North Highland, led by Caithness Chamber of Commerce, has since 2015 played a significant role in ensuring young people have a work-relevant education experience. We have school coordinators embedded across all of the high schools in the North Highlands and we work in partnership with local employers to help shape their future workforce and deliver the Young Person’s Guarantee (YPG), which aims to connect every 16 to 24 year-olds in Scotland to an opportunity. The YPG Pledge is for all employers. In November DYW launched a simpler way for employers to show their support to young people through the Young Person’s Guarantee Pledge. The updated process includes businesses sharing their experiences and advocating on behalf of DYW and the YPG to help increase pledges and opportunities for young people. This could involve offering work placements and mock interviews, industry insights and awareness sessions, apprenticeships or simply promoting the Young Person’s Guarantee within business networks and supply chain and taking part in social media campaigns and DYW events.

We are incredibly grateful to have the support of so many fantastic employers across the North Highlands, committed to inspiring confidence, enabling relevant employability skills and supporting access to the workplace for young people in our region. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the businesses and employers who have engaged with DYW on our programme including skills sessions, career events, work placements, CV and mock interviews, workplace visits, mentoring and much more. The DYW North Highland team provide a vital link in strengthening partnerships between businesses and education providers and there are always plenty of opportunities to get involved, so if you haven’t already but want to find out more, just get in touch with us!


View from the board. Jennifer Simpson, Director, BBM Solicitors Ltd

At BBM we’re very committed to developing young people in the North Highlands and giving them the opportunity to explore law as a career.

There is a strong STEM focus in our region, which is fantastic, but we need to show our young people the breadth of opportunity available to them. That’s why we created a prize in Wick High School for the pupil who performs best in English and Social Subjects, and the winner also has the opportunity to join us for invaluable work experience with our solicitors in our Wick Office.

Real-world experiences are instrumental in inspiring our future generations and their future careers. We offer a range of work experience opportunities for students interested in studying law and summer placements for those already at university. We engage with young people throughout the school year by attending relevant career events, and assisting with several of the DYW North Highland initiatives such as delivering workshops with pupils keen to study law and supporting mock interviews. We have also provided informal mentoring for young people who have gone to study law to support their development and career choices as they progress through their studies.

We love to recruit locally whenever we can and keep great talent living in Caithness and serving their local communities. We have two qualified solicitors in our team who studied at Wick High School and joined us for several summer placements throughout university, completed their legal traineeships with us and then found their chosen specialisms at BBM.

We are committed to nurturing our talent.  Within the BBM team we have a former Wick High School Student who started with us in an office junior role and is now completing her studies to become a Conveyancing Paralegal.

DYW North Highland has been invaluable in helping develop some of the key transferable skills that help young people when they are taking their first steps into the office environment such as confidence, interviewing and presentation skills, but also core skills like how to answer the phone or use Microsoft Office which is something they don’t get the opportunity to do in the school environment. This helps push them ahead when it comes to gaining the confidence to help them succeed.

It is our responsibility as employers to help pave the way for our future workforce and there really is something every employer can do to support young people to thrive in the workplace. The impacts are far-reaching, and engaging with young people can bring all sorts of benefits to your business including growing your workforce, increased competitiveness, and meeting skills gaps.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/350464/scottish-rate-of-youth-unemployment/#:~:text=As%20of%20the%202nd%20quarter,percent%20in%20the%20previous%20quarter.
[2] https://www.youngminds.org.uk/media/esifqn3z/youngminds-coronavirus-report-jan-2021.pdf
[3] https://www.focusnorth.scot/wp-content/uploads/Focus-North-Opening-Presentation.pdf

Got a good news story you’d like to share? Get in touch with the Chamber today!

E: info@caithnesschamber.com
T: 01847 890076