ORGANISATIONS from across East Ayrshire demonstrated their commitment to young people and to tackling youth unemployment at a Youth Employment Summit held in East Ayrshire Council Chambers on Tuesday, August 21.

The Summit brought together a wide range of delegates including local business leaders, Community Planning Partners, the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jobcentre Plus and the Third Sector to explore how we can tackle the increase in youth unemployment by building on the excellent work which is already in place to support young people into further education, training and employment.

To set the scene for the discussion, delegates heard from three speakers who gave their perspectives on what we are already doing and what more we could do.

Mary Palmer, Kilmarnock College's Student President, accompanied by a small group of students, spoke eloquently of young people's aspirations to have a job and make a life for themselves. She highlighted the range of programmes available to build young people's confidence and develop the skills they need for the jobs which are available locally. Her key message to delegates was that young people need the opportunity to gain experience and show employers what they can do.

In her keynote speech, Marie Macklin, CEO of the Klin Group, painted an inspiring picture of East Ayrshire as a place which has a history of entrepreneurship and where local business leaders continue to work with young people to raise their aspirations, and encourage and support them to achieve their goals. Through her involvement with initiatives such as the Business Enterprise Fund and the new Ayrshire Business Hatchery, she has first hand experience of the qualities of our young people, and stressed the benefits of engaging young people with local businesses.

Alan Neish, Head of Planning and Economic Development at East Ayrshire Council, described the wide range of programmes currently available to young people, and the services and resources available to employers to support them to employ more young people.

The key focus of the Summit was a round table discussion during which those present pledged their support for a number of actions which will be taken forward either by individual organisations or by a range of partners working together.

There was a clear commitment to ensuring a positive destination for all young people on leaving school. This will include increasing the number of Modern Apprenticeships available in East Ayrshire.

Recognising the benefit of having experience when competing for jobs, new internships, work experience, job shadowing and volunteering opportunities will be offered by a number of organisations. The creation of internships includes a commitment to a programme for young people with a learning disability many of whom face additional barriers to employment.

Young people can find it difficult to make sense of the courses, programmes and support available to them. Similarly, employers, particularly small businesses, can find it difficult to find out what is on offer to help them grow their business or employ more staff. A comprehensive one door approach to accessing the support and resources available will be developed for both young people and employers.

Building on the connections which we already have with many local businesses, new opportunities will be sought to engage with local and national businesses to sell the benefits of employing young people and investing in their own future workforce. This will include working with employers to make sure that the skills which young people are developing match the needs of employers going forward.

Finally, there was a commitment to supporting the development of social enterprises which, as well as delivering services across East Ayrshire, provide jobs, training and volunteering opportunities in our communities.

Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council concluded: "The Summit has given us a chance to come together and identify actions which will maximise the impact of the work of all of the organisations around the table and make a positive difference to the lives of young people and businesses in East Ayrshire."