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Skills for Scotland: A Lifelong Skills Strategy


annex b:
defining our terms 35

The definitions used for the clusters of skills referred to in this strategy, such as personal and learning skills, core skills, employability skills and transferable skills have substantial overlaps with each other. These categorisations are not mutually exclusive. They all include many of the same skills - and also behaviours, attitudes and personal attributes - that make individuals more effective in particular contexts such as education and training, employment and social engagement. These clusters of skills are embraced by the broad term "essential skills".


The ability to read, write, and use numeracy to handle information, to express ideas and opinions, make decisions and solve problems - as family members, workers, citizens and lifelong learners.


The skills, knowledge and self-awareness to develop aspirational career aims and the confidence to take appropriate actions in one's working life, time and again, as career opportunities arise and work and learning options change.


Scotland's colleges deliver post-compulsory education, usually of a vocational nature, at both further and higher education levels ( SCQF levels 1 - 10). About a quarter of Scotland's higher education is delivered by colleges. They also deliver courses in collaboration with schools and education authorities for school pupils. College programmes prepare learners to progress to further learning or employment.


Community Learning and Development ( CLD) is learning and social development work with individuals and groups in their communities using a range of formal and informal methods. A common defining feature is that programmes and activities are developed in dialogue with communities and participants. CLD's main aim is to help individuals and communities tackle real issues in their lives through community action and community-based learning.


As defined by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, amongst others, the five Core Skills are: communication, numeracy, problem solving, information technology and working with others.


Demand is the quantity of a good or service that people wish to buy. Labour demand refers to the total number of workers or even working hours required by employers and is usually measured by the number of jobs plus vacancies. Demand is influenced by the customer's (employer's) purchasing power, the price of the good or service (the wages and other costs of employing someone) and the availability of alternatives (e.g. machines).


Economically active/inactive people are those adults who are/are not actively engaged in employment or seeking work.


The combination of factors and processes which enable people to progress towards or get into employment, to stay in employment and move on in the workplace 36.


A term that refers to skills, behaviours, attitudes and personal attributes that are necessary for an individual to seek, gain and sustain employment and function effectively in the workplace and are transferable to a variety of contexts. Employability skills prepare individuals for work rather than for a specific occupation.


The ability to apply enterprising skills, attitudes and values such as self-awareness, self-confidence, creativity, initiative, risk taking, communication, decision making, problem solving and teamwork in a range of social and economic contexts.


This is a broad term that includes literacy and numeracy, personal and learning skills, the five core skills, skills for employability and other transferable skills.


The process of acquiring skills, knowledge and understanding through practical and hands-on experience rather than through theoretical education.


Skills that an individual must have to engage successfully in learning activities that result in them developing higher level skills.


Most Higher Education Institutions are universities. They deliver mainly courses of higher education qualifications and degrees. A course of higher education is one of the following:

(a) a course at a higher level in preparation for a higher diploma or certificate;
(b) a first degree course;
(c) a course for the education and training of teachers;
(d) a course of post-graduate studies (including a higher degree course);
(e) a course at a higher level in preparation for a qualification from a professional body; and
(f) a course at a higher level not falling within any of paragraphs (a) to (e) above.


This is usually the same as vocational training, with a focus on a single trade, profession or occupation. Many employers, colleges, training providers, trade unions and professional bodies deliver some measure of training that improves workers' ability to perform tasks.


The term 'labour' refers to actual and potential input of people into economic production: actual in terms of people in work, potential in terms of people who are not in work but could notionally work. The labour market is the mechanism or market place in which buyers and sellers of labour engage. The term labour market is used widely in its broadest sense to cover a range of issues that are concerned with labour and the market for labour over time and generally is concerned with elements of labour supply and labour demand and how these interact. For example, we are interested in children and the subjects they study as this has implications for labour supply in the future.


In the widest sense, anyone involved in the delivery of learning such as colleges, universities, Community Learning and Development providers the Scottish Prison Service, schools, private training providers, professional bodies, trade unions, employers and voluntary sector organisations.


Competence and confidence in grammar, spelling and the spoken word in order to function responsibly in everyday life, express ideas and opinions, interpret and analyse information, and reach informed decisions.


A market failure occurs when the economic system does not efficiently distribute resources or goods and this situation results in an outcome which is not as good as the theoretically best possible one. For example, there can sometimes be a market failure in training - if companies invest to train individuals, the benefits of training are retained by that individual rather than the company. If the individual leaves the company, they take these training benefits with them. The market failure occurs when this is a disincentive that leads to companies not investing in training. If many companies do this, then the economy suffers as economic production is not as efficient as it could potentially be.


NEET is an acronym for 'Not in Employment, Education or Training'. It is used to describe people who are either unemployed and not in education or economically inactive and not in education. There is a particular focus on young people aged between 16 and 19 who need more choices and more chances in life.


Competence and confidence in using numbers in order to be able to solve problems, interpret and analyse information, and reach informed decisions.


This refers to the notion that all forms of academic and vocational education should be perceived, designed, funded and delivered in ways that do not value one over the other.


These skills, behaviours, attitudes and personal attributes include self-confidence, self-awareness and self-knowledge; critical thinking; a positive attitude to learning, self-directed learning and an ability to plan and evaluate learning strategies; and the ability to reflect on one's own progress in learning.


This encompasses all education that is available after the point at which children are required by law to receive education.


The value of output (goods and services) produced per unit of input (productive resources) used. Thus an increase in productivity means producing more goods and services with the same amount of resources, or producing the same goods and services with fewer resources, or some combination of these two possibilities. While productivity is often measured or referred to only in terms of the productivity of labour (output per 'man'-hour), a more precise and complete view of the sources of productivity incorporates the effects of all inputs to production, including capital, land and materials.


In a labour market context, a qualification is an endowment or achievement (often formally certificated) that demonstrates an individual's competence and proficiency in a specified area of activity. Qualifications are often used as conditions of entry to particular jobs and often as a proxy for measuring the broader and more amorphous concept of skills. However, not all skills require or lead to qualifications and vice versa.


A "skill", in its narrower sense, is an acquired capability that enables an individual to engage in particular activities. It is the ability, competency, proficiency or dexterity to carry out tasks that comes from education, training, practice or experience. It can enable the practical application of theoretical knowledge to particular tasks or situations. "Skill" is also applied more broadly to include behaviours, attitudes and personal attributes that make individuals more effective in particular contexts such as education and training, employment and social engagement. "Skills" in the narrower sense are generally assessable. In the broader sense they are not readily assessed.


A skill gap exists when someone who is in a job is judged by their employer to be not fully proficient


A skill shortage arises when an employer has a vacancy; the employer describes that vacancy as 'hard-to-fill'; and the reason the vacancy is hard-to-fill is because the applicants lack the appropriate skills, qualifications or experience to do the job.


Soft skills are those which employers look for in addition to and to assist in deploying, their technical skills and experience. They typically comprise: teamwork; communication skills; problem solving ability; leadership skills; and customer service skills. However they can also encompass personal characteristics such as motivation, self-confidence, attendance and career aspiration.


The labour supply relates to those individuals potentially available to work. In total, it usually consists of those in work and those unemployed (who are defined as available for and actively seeking work). Whilst the demographic composition of a society is a core determinant of the labour supply, changes can occur because people become, or cease to be, economically active, or where migration adds to, or reduces the total number of people that could be part of the labour supply.


Tertiary education is post-secondary further or higher education. The word "tertiary" means third rank or phase, with a distinction being drawn between primary, secondary and tertiary education.


Organisations that are not fully in the private or public sector, for example, voluntary, organisations and community groups.


Training is the process of coaching in or accustoming an individual to a mode of behaviour or performance; or to make proficient with specialised instruction and practice. In the labour market context it refers to the process of improving workforce skills: by employer instruction; by educational institutions; by trades unions or professional bodies; on or off the job and with or without formal certification and qualifications.


Skills learnt and developed in one situation that could be used in a different situation. The term normally implies that the individual is aware of the transferability of the skills they have developed.


Vocational education in schools generally aims to develop pre-vocational or employability skills. When undertaken in the tertiary education or training sectors vocational education is usually oriented towards a specific trade, profession, vocation or element of work. It can involve development of specific technical or professional skills for certain types of job or occupation, or training in general skills and aptitudes relating to an industry. It will also generally involve the development of personal and learning skills, core skills and employability skills.


These skills refer to the individual's competency and proficiency in activities that relate to specific occupations or vocational areas.


The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations ( SCVO) defines voluntary organisations as non-profit driven, non-statutory, autonomous and run by individuals who do not get paid for running the organisation. There are no agreed hard and fast rules for distinguishing the boundary line between voluntary and other organisations. However, the following exclusions are based on the notion that the voluntary sector represents a unique value system. Even within the set of organisations that hold to this value system, there are particular exclusions made for pragmatic reasons. SCVO use two key tests to distinguish voluntary organisations from other organisations:

  • the organisation should not represent a "for-profit driven", as opposed to a public benefit motivation; and
  • the organisation should aim to satisfy a shared benefit, rather than an exclusive and private objective.