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Skills for Scotland: Accelerating the Recovery and Increasing Sustainable Economic Growth

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5. SIMPLIFYING THE SKILLS SYSTEM

Increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of public services must be a primary objective for the Scottish Government and any other public body. All of Scotland's skills providers - schools, colleges, universities, private training providers, Community Learning and Development, third sector and other providers - are part of one and the same learning system. Such a system must help individuals understand the relevance of their training, make effective progression in their learning, increase the opportunity to find sustained employment and to utilise their skills effectively.

Through partnership and the integration of activities a coherent, simple to use skills system will be developed that allows for additional flexibility to respond to the changing needs of individuals and employers and to the new challenges and opportunities in the wider economy. Together with partners the accessibility of skills advice and support for individuals and employers will be improved by increasing the integration of services, improving accessibility, providing better information, advice and guidance, reducing bureaucracy and improving standards.

To help simplify the skills system in Scotland the policy commitments include:

  • developing a "no wrong door" approach within SDS and across other public sector agencies for skills support for both employers and individuals;
  • rolling-out the integrated employment and skills services of Jobcentre Plus and SDS nationwide, ensuring easy access to skills assessments and careers advice, improving skills of the workforce and moving people more quickly into employment;
  • redesigning the delivery of careers services to help people make informed decisions about their future learning and career pathways in ways that best suit their individual needs;
  • developing an e-prospectus by December 2010, providing 16-19 year old learners, parents, those who care for young people and professionals who support young people, with a consistent way of accessing accurate and up-to-date information on learning, training, volunteering and information on the full range of potential opportunities available to them;
  • examining options for further simplification of funding of employability and skills support at the local level;
  • promoting a system of SSCs that works for Scotland, ensuring alignment around the Industry Advisory Groups and Third Sector Skills Partnership with enhanced foresight on Scotland's strategic skills requirements;
  • continuing to work with the SCQF Partnership to provide a simple system of access to education and training and recognition of qualifications; and
  • considering further options for supporting the establishment of Skills Gateways.

Simplification for individuals

Integrating employment and skills services ( IES)In Skills for Scotland we expressed the intention to "encourage the integration of employment and skills services to facilitate the journey individuals make from long-term unemployment to sustained employment and in-work progression". The aim to develop an integrated career guidance and employment vacancy service for unemployed adults resulted in an enhanced working relationship between SDS and Jobcentre Plus Scotland. Such a service would eventually come to embrace all the services, at both a national and local level, that were able to help individuals into sustained and rewarding employment.

In February 2009 the first phase of IES pilots in Scotland was announced. The pilots covered twenty locations across all six Jobcentre districts and were evaluated positively as having enhanced the customer experience in those areas.

Complete national coverage was achieved in August. This work focuses on Jobseekers Allowance claimants who have been seeking work for
13 weeks. This further element of the Economic Recovery Plan will make it easier for clients to access the training, careers advice and employment support that can speed up a return to work. National coverage is a crucial step forward for employability and skills policy in Scotland at a time when the support provided is needed most. It is clear that more can be done and options to enhance collaboration between SDS and Jobcentre Plus to improve support for unemployed people across the country will be examined.

Information, advice and guidanceThe Scottish Government has made clear the intention for young people to stay in learning post 16, in the context of a wider commitment to young people through Building the Curriculum 3 entitlements and the commitment to improve support for those affected by recession.

The pursuit of sustainable economic growth requires us to promote high quality training, learning and employment opportunities. However, it also demands that we encourage and help people to access support in a manner that is right for them, including giving more intensive support to those who need most help and to those employed in smaller workplaces that are less likely to provide training for staff.

High quality Career Information, Advice and Guidance ( IAG) has an important role in helping people to understand their skills and in enabling them to progress in their career through on-going decisions in learning and work. The Scottish Government is committed to the universal delivery of Career IAG, including more intensive support for those that need it most. The Scottish Government will publish a Career IAG Strategy by the end of 2010, outlining how careers services will be delivered in the future, through a variety of delivery channels, including better use of new technology. The strategy will highlight the contribution Career IAG can make to delivering sustainable economic growth for all by helping individuals to make better career decisions.

Key developments will include SDS's new approach to Career IAG delivery - Career Management Skills - a framework for career self-management, underpinned by Curriculum for Excellence principles, that will encourage people to develop career management skills and to use these in learning, work and personal environments.

In providing careers information, advice and guidance for individuals, it is important that this is well informed through insights from the world of work. SDS will continue to work with SSCs and other industry bodies to feed these insights to career practitioners; this includes sector-based events, sharing Labour Market Intelligence and understanding career pathways within the sectors.

The e-prospectusProviding the right choices and chances to young people is central to our overall Purpose of sustainable economic growth, with opportunities for all to flourish. As part of effective information, advice and guidance provision, and to inform and drive choice, young people should be able to find out, on-line, what opportunities are available to them. This will be achieved through the development of an e-prospectus. The overarching aim of the e-prospectus is to improve the volume and quality of information available to learners to enable them to make the right post-16 learning choice.

By December 2010 - the timescale for 16+ Learning Choices rollout - there will be an e-Prospectus of 16+ Learning Opportunities, including college, National Training Programmes and volunteering provision. It will sit alongside the information currently provided by UCAS and individual institutions in the further and higher education sectors.

The e-Prospectus will provide all 16-19 learners, parents, those who care for young people and professionals who support young people, with consistent access to accurate and up-to-date information on a wide range of potential opportunities, in one place, reducing the need to navigate different information sources for different opportunities. The tool, a subset of information held on the National Learning Opportunities Database ( NLOD), will also be of use to the guidance community in signposting learners to potential opportunities.

Simplification at local levelCommunity Planning Partnerships are fundamental to achieving Single Outcome Agreements across all local authority areas in Scotland. Each local authority faces its own unique challenges which impact on labour market participation and social equity. The use of local solutions for local problems will continue to be supported and options for further simplification of funding and the provision of skills and employability support at the local level will be examined. In particular the Scottish Government will work with CPP employability and More Choices More Chances partnerships to ensure a closer engagement between their work and that of SDS around commissioning.

Simplification for employers

No wrong doorIt is important that employers as well as individuals have a clear understanding of what services they can expect and from whom when they are looking to get help in finding work, or skills and training support. It is clear that some employers, particularly SMEs, still have difficulty engaging with the skills system. The development of Skills Gateways by SDS across the key sectors will help improve access to relevant information and services for employers, individuals and training suppliers. SDS will complement this with additional measures to ensure that engagement across all entry points, whether by telephone, web or other mechanism, is simple and effective and can immediately respond to the needs of employers. The concept of the "no wrong door" approach will also be promoted beyond SDS. The Scottish Government, through the Strategic Forum, will take the lead role in simplifying and better coordinating the services and support available across all the key public agencies providing support to employers.

Less bureaucracy, better informationInformation, advice and guidance to employers should be readily available and understood. Too many employers, particularly SMEs, are frustrated by the complexity they encounter in accessing the right information about skills at the right time in the right format. It can be difficult for employers to know where to start looking for information without a prior detailed knowledge of the institutional landscape.

The SDS Corporate Plan for the three-year period to 2012 contains the goal to 'make skills work for employers'. This will be taken forward through the Skills Gateways and employer skills service, which will provide a single point of contact for employers seeking to improve their use of skills. In partnership with SSCs, key sector employers including SMEs, and the third sector, SDS will identify industry needs for skills and use this to improve the skills and learning system, including informing programmes.

Business-led skills solutionsThe Scottish Government is committed to developing skills solutions in partnership with businesses and the education sector. We do not want to import or impose a one-size-fits all approach, rather we are seeking to build on existing relationships and structures to develop skills solutions that reflect the particular needs of a sector.

In the food and drink sector the SFC, SDS and Scottish Enterprise have provided support for the establishment of a Scotland Food and Drink National Skills Academy, which is helping to provide the industry with the training it needs to develop the skills of employees to drive the productivity and competitiveness of the sector. In the creative industries, SFC is investing £5.8 million over five years from 2009-10 in Skillset's Screen & Media Academies which will develop specialist facilities and support growth of postgraduate places on new and improved Masters courses.

Looking forward, the SFC and SDS will continue to work with the SSCs and other industry bodies to consider further options for supporting the establishment of sector-led skills solutions where they help us to fill any gaps in existing provision. These developments will be led by employers, working with government and training providers, to shape the training and qualifications that will help them compete in global markets.

UK-wide skills bodiesThe UK Government has been clear in its aim to reduce the number and cost of its arms-length public bodies. The Scottish Government has been in discussions with Whitehall departments to influence the future shape and purpose of the UKCES, particularly its role in managing SSCs and the Investors in People Standard. The need to review the existing structures to ensure best value for money is fully understood but the benefits derived from co-operating across the UK must be maintained. The Scottish Government will continue to work to ensure that emerging structures deliver effectively for Scotland.

Employer engagementA number of publicly funded organisations in Scotland are involved in employer engagement, planning, funding, performance management and quality improvement. This engagement is vital but the process must be simple and efficient. SDS has worked closely with Scotland's employer representative organisations and the SSCs to develop approaches to ensuring that the needs of employers are reflected in its products and services. Recently this has included SSCs, Federation of Small Businesses Scotland, Scottish Chambers of Commerce and Scottish Council for Development and Industry providing guidance to SDS in the initial development and promotion to their respective memberships of the Flexible 5000 training opportunities, and the Step Forward Scotland programme. The continued development of these relationships between employers and the skills system is central to the success of this strategy.

The SSCs, working with the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils Scotland and Industry Advisory Groups where appropriate, should further develop and support effective clustering around Scotland's key sectors and high-participation sectors. The SSCs should also continue to work closely with the SQA to develop qualifications that meet the needs of Scotland and are, where possible, included within the SCQF. Regular engagement is also expected with employers to review and revise National Occupational Standards and Modern Apprenticeship frameworks to keep pace with sectoral change.

Better Labour Market IntelligenceIt is clear that the skills system must have the flexibility to respond quickly and effectively to labour market challenges, as has been evident over the last 2 years. Fexibility is also needed to both anticipate and deliver the strategic skills requirements to respond to future economic opportunities. Improving the quality, reliability and understanding of Labour Market Intelligence ( LMI) at a national, regional and local level is a key priority. We look to SDS to continue to work with the SSCs and other industry bodies to develop a stronger evidence base across the key sectors. A new LMI Framework will be established which will bring key stakeholders and partners together to strategically examine current LMI, future needs and opportunities, and identify options for improvement. This framework will also formalise the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders in the provision of national, regional, local and sectoral LMI.

New Horizons and the Tripartite Advisory GroupSince the publication of New Horizons in 2008 (the report from the Joint Future Thinking Taskforce on Universities), the SFC has established new funding streams for universities (the General and Horizon Funds) and is working to ensure that its funding is better aligned with the principles of New Horizons and the Government Economic Strategy. This includes funding a number of direct initiatives to encourage business engagement with the work of universities, such as Interface and Innovation Vouchers, as well as funding skills supply and knowledge creation.

New Horizons has also led to the establishment of the Tripartite Advisory Group ( TAG). TAG will promote a more open and direct relationship between the Scottish Government, the SFC and Universities Scotland. It will act as a forum for the university sector to offer its views on how the SFC's new funding arrangements are working and on how quickly it is moving to a "lighter touch" approach and giving universities the autonomy they need to innovate and develop.

Ensuring quality, recognition and effective progression

Quality inspection and labellingInformation about the quality of the education and skills system in Scotland must be simple and provide learners with sufficient detail to enable them to make an informed choice over what is right for them. Colleges and universities already provide information, at varying levels of detail, on the quality of learning and teaching available at each institution. It is clear that this could be strengthened across the system. The models identified and recommended by the UKCES will be examined with a view to considering a new public performance framework built around outcomes, impact and quality for courses offered by Scotland's colleges and other learning and training providers.

Qualifications, progression and transitionsSupport will continue for the use of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework to help people gain credit for learning in varying contexts and to use this as a basis for progression into further learning or work. The SCQF is well established across Scotland and an increasing number of qualifications delivered in Scotland are within the framework. The SCQF will continue as the framework for articulation agreements between colleges and universities, enabling learners to attain higher level skills faster. We will look to the SFC to work with colleges and universties to promote initiatives such as the Scottish Wider Access Programme ( SWAP) and improve access to higher education for mature students throughout Scotland.

The UK Vocational Reform Programme is a UK-wide programme introducing changes to the way vocational qualifications are developed. Changes to the vocational qualification system in other parts of the UK are beginning to have an impact in Scotland. Focus on populating the Qualifications and Credit Framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland has led to a decrease in activity to update and develop Scottish vocational qualifications. A Scottish Vocational Qualification Board, a sub-committee of the SFC's Skills Committee, has been created to consider how reform is impacting on Scotland and how we should respond to mitigate against any risk to the quality and integrity of the Scottish system of vocational qualifications. We look to the SSCs to ensure that they continue to develop qualifications that meet the needs of Scotland and, where appropriate, are developed within the SCQF.