Receiving a fair wage for the work you do should be a given in a modern society, regardless of your gender, background or age. That principle of equality is what powers YouthLink Scotland and the youth work sector we represent, so becoming an Accredited Living Wage Employer did not require any debate.
We are indeed living in a significant moment in history, one which will determine our journey as a Scottish nation, our place in the United Kingdom and our part on the world stage. We have some stark choices to make with regard to the labour market and, linked to that, the health and wellbeing of the nation, and crucially our young people.
Considering our young people will be shaping our nation long after many of us are gone, we need to give them a foundation of equality so they can continue to build a vibrant society, one where everyone feels valued. Fundamental to this is equality of pay and of opportunity. As an employer, we strive not just to meet our legal requirements on pay, but to ensure we go beyond this where we can. We continue to assist young people in our workplace through various employment schemes like the Community Jobs Scotland programme, and to use our advocacy role with our membership to support all youth work organisations in their efforts to achieve that equality.
We believe, though, that more has to be done to end the age discrimination within the National Minimum Wage. If government is serious about valuing all young people then fair is fair, same work should mean same pay.
As a membership organisation, YouthLink Scotland champions the role and value of youth work, challenging government at national and local levels to invest in the development of the sector for the benefit of our young people. Our vision is of a youth work sector for Scotland which offers sustainable, dynamic and accessible youth work opportunities that support young people to become successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.
Fair pay is one way of valuing our future generations. So too is making sure young people have the skills employers need. Many are coming out of school with qualifications but not the employability skills that will lead them to employment.
Youth work activities and programmes have a unique role to play in delivering these types of skills to young people of all abilities but perhaps in particular, to those for whom the traditional academic route has failed or faltered.
We would like to see more schools engage with our sector to raise achievement and attainment and we will continue to campaign for youth work to be an integral part of the education system. The voice of employers also needs to be properly heard, they tell us that soft skills are more important to them than formal qualifications. More dialogue is needed with the youth work sector to deliver what the jobs market requires of our young people and to ensure they are supported in their attainment at school. Fair is fair, on pay and on the skills to get into work.
Sarah Paterson manages Public Affairs, Media and Communications at YouthLink Scotland.