Employability discussions in Brussels
As we fast approach April and the delivery of our new employability powers I’ve enjoyed meeting a number of people and organisations to discuss the new, fairer approach we will be taking.
These discussions haven’t just been focused in Scotland, last month I spent time in Brussels meeting a range of people and organisations to hear more about their employment support.
One of the highlights was meeting Social Platform, the largest civil society alliance of its kind in Europe.
We discussed employment support services for disabled people, the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged groups.
It was useful to hear from them about the challenges and solutions of employability across the EU and how the Scottish Government might continue to contribute.
We also spoke about the Scottish Government’s thinking around employability and making sure we focus on voluntary programmes, that person-centred support is important, and how this will deliver inclusive growth and reduce inequalities.
I was particularly interested in speaking to The European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) who made clear that supporting inclusive employment can be more financially beneficial in the long term, for disabled people, governments and taxpayers.
They also invited me to attend the first World Conference on Supported Employment which they are co-hosting in June in Belfast.
Meeting with the European Platform for Rehabilitation (EPR) gave me some insight into the benefits of personalised support and the importance of raising awareness and building capacity among staff about what disability is. So making it clear that it is not always about visible disability, and making sure that the work environment and processes are accessible for disabled people.
The EPR said one of its keys to success is having partnership arrangements with big companies and they also highlighted the benefits of an initiative such as Duoday – where disabled people and other disadvantaged groups can do job shadowing for the day – this seems like a great way to break down some of the barriers between employers and disabled people.
We also visited a training facility of the Flemish Employment and Vocational Training Service (VDAB) in Anderlecht where training and support is provided to job seekers, including language courses. Brussels is a bilingual region so although VDAB’s activity is primarily in Flanders, the facility in Brussels supports both French and Dutch speakers.
I met with Laszlo Andor, former EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, who spoke about identifying the best policies for young people and cited Finland and Austria as good examples of where there were strong youth employment policies and good collaboration between employment and education partners at a regional level.
I was delighted to hear from Didier Gosuin, the Minister for Economy, Employment, Training and Health from the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, who noted the Scottish Government’s good performance on youth employment.
I shared some of the measures we have been taking forward under our Developing the Young Workforce strategy, with a particular focus on where we are supporting those young people who are furthest from the labour market and our approaches to improving the relationship between education and the employer community.
All in all it was a really useful and thought-provoking set of discussions. I will be continuing this research and speaking to people about our fairer approach, ahead of the start of the full programme of devolved employment support in 2018.