The Edinburgh Guarantee

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Main actors

City Government, Private Sector

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2011/01

Edinburgh has inspired cultural change across the public, private and third sectors to address unemployment among school leavers. A shared vision and strong partnerships are helping them find a job, modern apprenticeship or training, and make successful transitions into the world of work.

Edinburgh believes that making the most of the talents of its young people is critical for economic growth. The Edinburgh Guarantee ensures that every young person leaves school with the offer of a job, apprenticeship, training or further educational opportunity. Edinburgh works with partners to identify these employment opportunities. The scheme offers support to employers and young people, through wage subsidies, financial support, and training courses. These ensure that it benefits young people and businesses alike. The Edinburgh Guarantee website sits at the heart of the project, connecting school leavers with information, services, support and all the job and training opportunities the initiative has identified and created. Over 1,500 young people are currently registered for job alerts.

Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF: 

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels


This project was shortlisted for the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2015 in the following category: Cooperation.

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Size and population development
487,500 (as at June 2013)

Population composition
High proportion of young adults; proportion of people born outside the UK is 15.9% (as of 2011)

Main functions
Capital city of Scotland

Main industries / business
Financial services, scientific research, higher education, and tourism

Political structure
Edinburgh constitutes one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the council has powers over most matters of local administration; Edinburgh is also represented in the Scottish Parliament.

The recession had a major impact on young people in Edinburgh. By 2011, over 570 school leavers out of a total of 3,500 were not getting into college, employment or training. This figure was the worst in Scotland. Redundancies and scaling back of graduate schemes led to displacement in the labour market as people with higher qualifications or more work experience were taking the jobs that could have been the first step on the ladder for school leavers. The city council decided bold action was needed to prevent this trend impacting the life chances of individuals and the economic vitality of the city.

Edinburgh is home to a significant number of SMEs and some notable large employers. It also already had many networks and pathways into work and training for young people. Yet all were working independently. What the city didn’t have was a common vision across all stakeholders about how best to support school pupils and give them all a choice of a ‘positive destination’ when they leave school. The goal of the Edinburgh Guarantee was to encourage and enable businesses, education and service providers to work together to create this vision and bring it to life. Initially, all that was asked of businesses was simply: ‘what can you offer’.

Together, participants, identified the need for four areas of activity:

  • increase the number of opportunities for young people
  • improve their preparedness for work
  • pool resources, knowledge and expertise to fill gaps and enhance service provision
  • provide an integrated and tailored service for school pupils, parents, employers, service providers and partners

The guiding principle behind all these activities was to place the customer at their centre. This has proved particularly helpful in the development of smart, non-competitive ways of working among stakeholders. And also in the development of a wide range of programmes covering diverse customer needs. These include Career Academies within schools enhancing work-focused skills through summer placements and mentoring and Project SEARCH, a supported employment model for young people with autism.

Underpinning and enabling this work is £1m (€1.3m) of funding from the city council, a leadership group led by its chief executive and a partnership support team responsible for coordinating activities. The Edinburgh Guarantee website helps to match young people with current job opportunities in Edinburgh.

Joining up all the different elements of the employment and skills landscape in this flexible and inclusive way under the Edinburgh Guarantee umbrella has succeeded, where other more prescriptive projects might not, in widespread participation.

The Edinburgh Guarantee has generated a range of impressive statistics like this since its inception in 2011: it has secured the active support of 350 businesses; created over 2,400 opportunities for school leavers; improved the number of positive destinations for young people to 93.1%, the highest ever achieved in Edinburgh; saved an estimated £4m (€5.25m) in benefit payments; and delivered economic value of £17m (€22.3m) to Edinburgh and £29.4m (€38.6m) to Scotland.

"Ensuring that Edinburgh’s young people have opportunities is vital for the economic success of our city. The year on year improvements that have been achieved since the inception of the Edinburgh Guarantee show that focused collaboration can make a real difference to many young lives." said Frank Ross, Councillor in Edinburgh City Council.

This level of success has created momentum and many more ideas for the future. Partners are already looking at how this local action can be delivered with a regional partnership and there is also an expectation that it will be extended beyond its original five years. Insights from these first years will, in the meantime, be fed back into commerce and public services to refine activities and into education to ensure youth talent is shaped to meet future labour market needs. Plans to create young ambassadors to build the Guarantee brand suggest that it will be embedded into city life for the long term.

Cities in action - The Edinburgh Guarantee, Opportunities for Edinburgh’s school leavers - EUROCITIES, June 2016

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Brussels Capital Region, Belgium


Institution | Urban Award

Ken Shaw
Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Ken Shaw

Individual | Head of Employability and Talent Development

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