YOUTH, gender or background should not make any difference when it comes to being paid fairly, says the national agency for youth work, YouthLink Scotland, a supporter of the Living Wage.

“Receiving a fair wage for the work you do should be a given in a modern society, regardless of your gender, background or age,” said the agency’s Sarah Paterson. “That principle of equality is what powers our organisation and the youth work sector we represent, so becoming an accredited Living Wage employer did not require any debate.”

Paterson points out that Scots are living in a significant moment in history which will determine their country’s place in the UK and its part on the world stage. This, she says, will bring “stark choices” with regard to the labour market and, linked to that, the health and wellbeing of the nation and, crucially, the nation’s young people.

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“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,” said Paterson.

Fundamental to this is equality of pay and of opportunity and as an employer, YouthLink Scotland strives, not just to meet the legal requirements on pay, but to go beyond this where possible.

As a result, the organisation continues to assist young people in the workplace through various employment schemes, such as the Community Jobs Scotland programme, and to use its advocacy role to support all youth work organisations in their efforts to achieve that equality.

YouthLink Scotland believes, however, that more has to be done to end the age discrimination contained within the National Minimum Wage. “If Government is serious about valuing all young people then fair is fair – same work, should mean same pay,” said Paterson.

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 young people.

Paterson said: “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, according to the organisation.

“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,” Paterson said.

“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 as 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.”