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



Skills for Scotland: A Lifelong Skills Strategy was launched against a backdrop of a growing Scottish economy with high levels of employment. The strategy focused on three main themes: individual development, responding to economic and employer need and creating cohesive structures. Over the last three years the economic outlook that Scotland faces has altered considerably as many businesses and Governments across the globe faced up to record public sector budget deficits and higher levels of unemployment. It is clear that the approach to skills must be refreshed to take account of these changes but it is also important to reflect on the achievements that have continued to help individuals to improve their employment opportunities, businesses to improve their competitiveness, and Scotland to achieve a world class skills base.

Individual development

Record funding for colleges and universitiesSince 2007 there has been record investment in colleges and universities to develop intermediate and higher level skills, with total expenditure increasing to over £7 billion by this year. Colleges and universities across the country have also benefited from accelerated capital spending of around £20 million over the past two years. In April 2008 Scotland's student support system was improved through the abolition of the Graduate Endowment Fee, benefiting over 50,000 students immediately, and the raising of the income assessment threshold for Individual Learning Accounts from July 2009, allowing an additional 250,000 individuals to become eligible for funding. Promoting Excellence4, the Scottish Government response to the review of Scotland's colleges, and New Horizons5, the report of the Joint Future Thinking Taskforce on Universities were also published to clarify how colleges and universities can better support the pursuit of increased sustainable economic growth.

Colleges and economic recoveryScotland's colleges have responded quickly and strongly to the challenges that communities across Scotland have faced during the economic downturn. They will make a significant contribution to Scotland's recovery. That is why funding has been increased to enable them to respond better to the needs of individuals and employers during the economic downturn. Additional resources for 2009-10 were targeted by the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) at colleges in the local authority areas that have seen the greatest increases in unemployment and where the rate of unemployment among young people has risen the most.

Curriculum for Excellence developmentThrough the development of Curriculum for Excellence and publication of Building the Curriculum 3 and 4 it is clearly recognised that all young people are entitled to develop the skills for learning, life and work needed to deal flexibly with the challenges of the 21st century.

Through the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence the relevance of these skills for all young people is being demonstrated, from early years to the senior phase of learning and beyond. This applies in all curriculum areas and in all the contexts and settings where young people learn, ensuring parity of esteem between all types of learning.

Skills for Work qualifications have been extended to provide practical learning opportunities for school pupils in a range of subject areas and these are now available in all local authority areas in Scotland, supporting the Concordat commitment to give more school pupils opportunities to experience learning in a vocational context.

Enterprise in educationThrough embedding Determined to Succeed - the enterprise in education strategy - in Curriculum for Excellence, local authority schools in Scotland are ensuring young people are enterprising and entrepreneurial and prepared and ready for the world of work, including self-employment: equipped to make an effective transition from education to their chosen career path. Practical, experiential learning has been a central strand of Determined to Succeed since 2003 and remains a key priority of the second phase of the strategy to 2011. This has enabled local authorities to make significant progress in expanding access to practical learning opportunities.

16+ Learning Choices16+ Learning Choices will guarantee an offer of post-16 learning to every young person in the Senior Phase of Curriculum for Excellence who wants it, with improved transition planning and a wider, more coherent range of opportunities and support. Building on the experience of 21 early implementer local authorities in December 2008, every local authority is now committed to universal delivery by December 2010, when the focus will include all young people making a transition to further learning, training or employment.

A number of actions have been taken at a national level to support local implementation of 16+ Learning Choices: Education Maintenance Allowances ( EMAs) in schools and colleges have been refocused to better target support for those young people who need it most; Skills Development Scotland ( SDS) has focused its information advice and guidance to support learning choices; and investment of up to £12m has been committed to pilots of Activity Agreements in 10 local authority areas (Fife, Highland, Inverclyde, Stirling, Glasgow, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire, and Renfrewshire) to improve the way support is provided to the most vulnerable young people to engage and progress.

Support for part-time learnersSignificant investment has also been made to student support in Scotland with investment worth £38 million over three years from 2008 to support part-time students in higher education. Loans were removed for this group and replaced by grants for fees through the Individual Learning Account ( ILA) scheme. This is supporting over 20,000 part-time learners each year studying Higher Education courses, Professional Development Awards and Continuing Professional Development courses.

Piloting of IESSkills for Scotland contained an explicit commitment to encourage the integration of employment and skills ( IES) services with a view to promoting sustained employment and in-work progression for individuals. Significant progress has been made with the piloting of integrated employment and skills services in 21 locations across all Jobcentre Plus districts and SDS regions. Evaluation of these pilots showed positive enhancements to both customer and staff experiences in the pilot areas, leading to the subsequent decision to rollout the service nationally.

PACE PartnershipThe national strategic framework for responding to redundancy, Partnership Action for Continuing Employment ( PACE), has been strengthened to meet the challenges of recession. The PACE Partnership, set up in June 2009, brings together the Scottish Government, local government, industry partners, and all agencies with an interest in PACE to oversee a continuous improvement programme to enhance the operation of PACE. Through this work a number of steps have been taken to improve service accessibility for individuals and employers. This continuous improvement programme will continue through the remainder of 2010 and beyond.

Responding to local area unemploymentSingle Outcome Agreements are a fundamental part of the drive to improve the quality of life and opportunities for people across Scotland. They are agreements between the Scottish Government and Community Planning Partnerships ( CPPs) led by local authorities which set out how each will work in the future to improve outcomes for people in a way that reflects local circumstances and priorities. Through support for the national training programmes, including Training for Work and Get Ready for Work, and local partnerships, employment opportunities are being improved. The Scottish Government will continue to work in partnership across the public, private and third sectors to support long term unemployed people back into sustainable employment. In particular SDS will continue to work closely with CPPs across Scotland to target their services to meet the differentiated needs of residents and employers in local areas.

Recognition of learningThe Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework ( SCQF) remains central to Scotland's education and skills system, helping individuals to access appropriate education and training and employers to understand how different qualifications contribute to improving the skills of their workforce. The SCQF Partnership has set up a Recognition of Prior Learning network to develop tools, support organisations and share best practice that supports the recognition of learning that individuals may have completed but may not have resulted in any qualification. Four new Credit Rating Bodies were established in 2009 with more qualifications and learning programmes added to the Framework, increasing choice and opportunities for learners and employers. Scotland was also one of the first countries to complete the referencing of its framework to the European Qualifications Framework ( EQF), which acts as a translation device between different national qualifications frameworks across Europe to support the mobility of individual workers and learners.

Scotland's Third SectorThe third sector has an important role in helping achieve our long-term economic aspirations. In June 2008 the Enterprising Third Sector Action Plan was launched to help create the conditions for the third sector in Scotland, including social enterprises, to thrive. This Action Plan also enables the third sector to play a full role in the development, design and delivery of policy and services in Scotland. Additionally, the establishment of the new Third Sector Skills Partnership will help to champion third sector skills in Scotland and drive forward the implementation of the priorities and actions contained within the Third Sector Skills Framework.

Community Learning and DevelopmentCommunity learning and development workers in both the public and third sectors have a key role to play in engaging with both individuals and communities, enabling people to develop the confidence, understanding and skills required to influence decision making and to facilitate personal, social and educational development. Investment has been made in the national workforce to ensure high quality practice that engages many of those least likely to benefit from more formal learning and who are at a distance from the labour market. The Standards Council for Community Learning and Development was also established to support further development of the CLD workforce, through approval of training courses, establishing models for continuing professional development and developing a system of registration for CLD practitioners.

Responding to economic and employer need

Targeted investmentThe needs of Scotland's people and businesses have been placed at the heart of the policy approach to skills, allowing additional investment to be targeted over the past two years to those areas where it was most effective during the recession, including the Modern Apprenticeship, Training for Work and Get Ready for Work programmes. Changes to Training for Work eligibility rules now allow access to training at the three month stage of unemployment, allowing more individuals to benefit from Government support in training to find employment. These programmes have been operating in the context of severely constrained labour market conditions but the outcomes remain positive. In 2009-10 around 50% of Training for Work programme leavers found jobs.

Modern Apprenticeship targetIn 2009-10 £16 million in new funding was invested to fund an additional 7,800 Modern Apprenticeship starts supporting a total of 18,500 people across Scotland into new apprenticeships. This was exceeded with around 20,000 people starting an apprenticeship. This was an increase of around 90% compared to starts in 2008-09 and was vital in allowing individuals to keep earning and learning and allowing Scotland to develop some of the skills necessary to take us through the recession and into economic growth. In 2009-10 70% of leavers from the programme gained a qualification, job, or progressed to a separate training programme. Progress has also been made in improving the gender balance on the Modern Apprenticeship programme. In 2008-09 73% of new starts were male and 27% were female. In 2009-10 there was a significant shift in the gender balance with the proportion of male starts falling to 58% of the total and female starts increasing to 42%. The Scottish Government and SDS will continue to promote the accessibility of Modern Apprenticeship frameworks.

ScotActionThrough ScotAction, a major package of skills and training support, £150 million has been invested to help the unemployed enter the labour market, help employers to develop their workforce skills, and to support those facing redundancy to find alternative employment. ScotAction includes the most comprehensive support package for apprentices across the UK. Local authorities and industry training bodies have also provided significant support for apprentices through their separate programmes. Over 600 redundant apprentices have been successful in securing alternative employment through the 'Adopt an Apprentice' scheme, enabling them to complete their training. Support has also been targeted at apprentices in small and medium-sized enterprises ( SMEs), recognising their particular vulnerability during the recession. Through 'Safeguard an Apprentice', wage subsidies have been targeted at SMEs in the engineering, manufacturing and construction sectors, supporting over 300 apprentices at serious risk of redundancy. Given the continued economic uncertainty SDS will continue both the Adopt and Safeguard schemes until March 2011.

Step Forward ScotlandAs economic conditions deteriorated over the last year, many people chose to enter or remain in the education system as an alternative to entering the job market. College provision for the 2010-11 academic year has been boosted by 4,100 places through £15 million in European Social Funds. The Scottish Government requires the SFC to give priority to young people aged 16-24 wishing to study at college and to ensure that provision is closely aligned with local economic opportunities. This additional college provision will support those areas where demand for post-16 learning is likely to be at its highest. As part of the Step Forward Scotland initiative SDS are providing a national helpline to support young people and develop an effective mechanism for connecting employers and young people looking for work-based opportunities. A number of new skills initiatives were also introduced, including a further 5,000 all-age Modern Apprenticeship opportunities (taking the total number of places in 2010-11 to 20,000); 800 targeted pathway places for 16 and 17 year olds who cannot secure a job or a Modern Apprenticeship place but have the potential to do so; a £1,000 incentive for up to 2,000 MA places for 16 and 17 year olds with a particular focus on looked after children and others who may need additional support; 750 graduate placements over three years and 60 entrepreneurial training opportunities.

Finance Sector Jobs TaskforceThe Finance Sector Jobs Taskforce was established in 2009 to co-ordinate efforts across Scotland to ensure maximum levels of employment are retained within the financial services industry - focusing on understanding the needs of the industry as it adjusts to the future structures that will emerge. Taskforce membership comprises the Scottish Government, COSLA, all relevant public sector agencies and private sector representation through Scottish Financial Enterprise and Unite the Union. Feedback from the industry on the work of the Taskforce has been very positive, describing it as an excellent example of partnership working between the public and private sectors. The profile of the public sector support available has also been raised, enabling the industry to better understand the channels of information, advice, and guidance available on a wide variety of issues including retraining, up-skilling and social benefits.

Research and developmentIn terms of scale and quality, Scotland's university-based research is amongst the best in the world. The SFC has supported a series of initiatives to stimulate greater demand from specific key sectors for the knowledge created by higher education institutions.

Strategic use of European FundingScotland has gained much from the European Structural Fund programmes and they remain a significant source of funding for activity that contributes towards sustainable growth in the size and skills of the Scottish workforce. Across the Scottish Structural Fund Programmes to date, over £490m of support for 611 projects has been announced nationwide. Through ScotAction and PACE additional European Social Funds has been levered in to provide more training to support individuals into employment, financial incentives and wage subsidies to support apprenticeships and provide 4,100 additional college places in 2010-11.

Effective Skills useA Leadership Group was established in September 2008 to champion more effective skills use in the workplace. The Group provided strategic direction for SFC funding of £1.8m over two years for twelve projects. Chaired by the STUC, a wide range of organisations have been brought together in a new cross-sectoral network to support them to deliver messages about effective skills use.

Creating cohesive structures

A national skills bodyBringing Scotland's national training programmes together with careers advice within SDS ensured that Scotland had a focal point for the skills and training response to the economic downturn. It is evident that individuals and businesses, particularly SMEs, still perceive the skills system in Scotland to be complex and difficult to access. Going forward, SDS will continue to play a central role in the drive for recovery and sustainable employment and this strategy looks at new ways of making engagement as straightforward and effective as possible.

Skills CommitteeThe Joint SDS and SFC Skills Committee was established to provide a platform for advice on skills policy development and implementation in Scotland in line with the priorities set out in the Government Economic Strategy.

Strategic ForumThe Strategic Forum, which brings together Ministers with senior managers from SDS, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the SFC and Visit Scotland, aims to promote more effective collaboration and alignment between members and to ensure consistency between decisions across all policy areas, including skills and training, and the Government Economic Strategy.

Cohesive local structuresThe Scottish Government has continued to support the development of local employability groups across Scotland and strengthened this with an Employability Learning Network to help improve the way employability support is delivered. Local employment groups, facilitated by local authorities, are developing a pipeline of employability-related interventions, including skills development, to be delivered by SDS, local colleges and the third sector.