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Skills for Scotland: A Lifelong Skills Strategy

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chapter 5
funding: using our resources to drive improvement

Our aspirations to drive any lifelong skills strategy forward will rely on an adequately resourced learning infrastructure operating across Scotland. This is why public investment in learning and training providers has such a high priority. Current funding mechanisms provide a wide range of learning opportunities for individuals across Scotland. Current mechanisms are also generally successful in establishing financial stability among learning providers.

With investment of billions per year, we must be ambitious in what we demand in return. Our investment in learning provision is in itself not intended to support an industry - it is an investment in a broad and sustainable infrastructure for individual opportunity. Allocation of investment should focus on the needs of individuals, employers and wider society. This must be flexible enough to fit the lives of modern Scots as well as their aspirations.

Government's responsibility goes beyond simply providing funding; there is a key responsibility to align policy and delivery coherently. This Government will act quickly and effectively to reform those parts of the system within its sphere of responsibility which could be improved.

It is important, too, to ensure that the financial support available to individuals is right. Financial support should not drive behaviour - individuals should make decisions based on the learning that is most useful to them, not based on the more or less generous financial support they might be offered by different providers. It should support the wider aim of increasing participation and attainment. Identifying and eliminating gaps and disparities in the financial support system is critical to ongoing improvement.

We will create a funding system that is responsive to the needs of individuals, employers and the wider economy. We will ensure that the required support is available to individuals who need it and is properly resourced across sectors - including recognition of the higher cost of individually-tailored support.

A formula based approach to funding creates stability which can be beneficial to individuals. However, funding bodies must ensure that providers working in specialist fields such as the creative industries, rural delivery and provision in our most deeply deprived communities are funded adequately to respond effectively to the specific challenges they face. If formula funding cannot achieve this adequately then other approaches must be adopted.

We aim to improve support for people in the workforce to participate in part-time learning and will use this improved funding for individuals to encourage more providers to offer a wider range of flexible learning opportunities, including increased workplace learning.

We will review the provision of financial support for individuals through better learner-centred support for people in the workforce to participate in part-time and work-based learning. This will include individual support arrangements for taught postgraduate study, to ensure funding in this area is more responsive to the needs of individuals, business and the wider economy. We will consider the impact of the different additional support arrangements in place for individuals who are learning with different types of provider.

We will ensure that all publicly-funded learning is geared towards helping individuals utilise their skills, as well as develop them.

  • We are looking for individuals to emerge from Community Learning and Development, national training programmes, colleges and universities equipped with the ability to improve the productivity of the businesses which employ them.
  • We are looking for individuals to emerge from our colleges and universities with business ideas and the skills to convert them into successful businesses.
  • We are looking for individuals to emerge from our colleges and universities with a culture of innovation, which allows them to raise our expectations of the Scottish economy.

This is a huge challenge. Previous attempts of this sort have only mined the tip of what we believe is achievable. We look to our providers and the Scottish Funding Council to work together to develop and implement strategies to deliver a step change in the skills utilisation of individuals.

We will ensure that our funding systems promote successful transition and progression for individuals, with improved retention and attainment.

We expect funding bodies to develop funding mechanisms to support improved collaboration between providers to ease transition. This will include jointly funding learning providers from different sectors including colleges, universities, local authorities, the community and voluntary sectors and the private sector.

We must also explore options to fund on the basis of outcomes rather than on the basis of inputs in post-compulsory learning.

We will always seek value for money.

We are committed to ensuring that public funding for skills development achieves best value for the considerable investment.