Jerry Higgins says if Scotland can do it, New Scotland can too.
Higgins, CEO of Community Enterprise in Scotland, said that Nova Scotia could potentially drop their youth unemployment rate by following Scotland’s lead and encouraging social enterprise.
A social enterprise is an organization that has a goal to put people before profits. It aims to bring about cultural, social or environmental change.
Community Enterprise in Scotland is a support agency for social enterprise companies, helping them through training and investment programs.
“A number of years ago, in recession, youth unemployment reached significant levels in Scotland,” said Higgins. “The Scottish government said enough, and they went to the social enterprise sector to tackle the issue of youth unemployment.”
Higgins was in Halifax this week. He spoke Tuesday at a seminar organized by Social Enterprise Network of Nova Scotia and Common Good Solutions.
He said Scotland’s unemployment rate has decreased from 19.8 per cent in early 2014 to 14.6 per cent in 2015.
How Scotland does it
Higgins said this is partly because of new student programs that focus specifically on social enterprise.
“This inspires a generation,” he said. “(They) are going to go on and become entrepreneurs, and set up their own social enterprises, which combine business and a sense of purpose.”
He said another reason that Scotland’s unemployment rate fell is because these companies gave jobs to young people who never went to secondary school or had job experience.
“For example, Community Enterprise set up a café in an industrial area and gave 20 young people a year an opportunity of employment for six months. Later, they would progress onto the labour market,” said Higgins.
According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, youth unemployment is the highest sector of unemployment in Nova Scotia. Although it has been dropping since 2012, the youth unemployment rate was 15.9 per cent at the end of 2015, higher than the national average of 13 per cent.
Yvonne Strachan also spoke at Tuesday’s event. She is the deputy director of the Third Sector in the Scottish government, overseeing voluntary and non-profit organizations.
She said Canada is another leader in social enterprise, which is why implementing these strategies are possible in Nova Scotia.
“Our relationship with Nova Scotia can help make social enterprising something that young people want to become involved with.”
Higgins said he met with deputy ministers in Halifax on Monday.
“I think Nova Scotia is closer to having the type of social enterprise ecosystem that we have in Scotland,” he said.
“We had an advantage in Scotland with the government behind us and that really put the foot on the gas. That’s exactly where Nova Scotia is starting to be at right now.”