Three years ago in Skills for Scotland: A Lifelong Skills Strategy the Scottish Government set out our ambitions for skills in a lifelong learning context. It focused on three main areas: individual development, responding to economic and employer need and creating cohesive structures. In 2007 the economic outlook both in Scotland and around the world was very different to the conditions now faced. This refreshed skills strategy has a renewed focus around the skills required to accelerate economic recovery and to sustain a growing, successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish. It has a clear focus on providing the opportunities for skills to be developed and for these skills to be used effectively.
This strategy establishes high-level targets for the National Training Programmes in 2010-11. Individually these targets are for 15,000 Modern Apprenticeship starts, 14,500 training places to support the unemployed and 5,000 new flexible training opportunities to meet the needs of businesses. On top of these targets new European Social Funding provision has been secured for an additional 5,000 all-age Modern Apprenticeships, and 800 targeted pathway places for 16 and 17 year olds, taking the total allocation to over 40,000 training places in 2010-11.
Despite the clear progress that has been made it is acknowledged that some key challenges remain. As identified in Towards Ambition 2020: skills, jobs, growth for Scotland, a report invited from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills ( UKCES), Scotland's skills base has improved considerably but this has not translated into higher productivity and economic growth. More must be done to better anticipate and deliver the strategic skills requirements to respond to future economic challenges and opportunities. More can also be done to encourage greater employer demand for skills and for these skills to be utilised effectively to capture the gains in productivity and competitiveness.
The strategy is structured around four key priority themes:
- empowering people to ensure they have the opportunity to access the right advice, support and opportunities to acquire the skills and attributes to both contribute to and benefit from future economic success;
- supporting employers by better understanding and assessing the skills they need for future success, and ensuring that the supply of skills, training and qualifications can be responsive to this;
- simplifying the skills system to ensure that it is more coherent and easy to understand for individuals and employers; and
- strengthening partnerships and collective responsibility between public, private and third sectors to help improve skills and the contribution they make towards achieving Scotland's social and economic aspirations.
A broad range of commitments are made within each theme. Collectively these commitments are aimed at improving the skills and employability of individuals and creating high skill, high productivity, healthy workplaces where this talent can be best used. Scotland's ability to recover from recession and become a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth will depend on successful and growing businesses creating sustainable employment opportunities and ensuring that there is a skilled workforce to do these jobs well.
This refreshed skills strategy will be implemented against the backdrop of a fragile economic recovery and severely tightening public sector resources. The 2010 Spending Review process will make clear the resources available for the Scottish Government, local government and other public sector bodies over the short to medium term. Spending decisions for 2011-12 and beyond will be determined through this process.
This economic and fiscal climate and the increasing need to focus on the impact and value for money of training commitments will be central to a Review of Post 16 Education and Vocational Training Provision in Scotland which has been commissioned by the Scottish Government. This Review will report to Ministers by March 2011.