Developing the young workforce: fifth annual progress report 2018-2019

Fifth annual report of developing the young workforce covers academic year 2018 to 2019 and highlights early progress made in the first part of academic year 2019-2020.

Chapter 2: Colleges

More 16-24 year olds achieving positive destinations from college.

Key Indicators

Outcomes (KPIs)

  • In 2017/18, 86.4% of college leavers who successfully completed a full time course went onto employment or higher level study. This is an increase of 1.1 percentage points from 2016/17 (when the figure was 85.3%) and an increase of 3.5 percentage points since 2014/15[3] (the baseline year, when the figure was 82.9%);
  • Figures for 2016/17 show that the minority gender share across college courses increased by at least 1 percentage point in 6 out of the 10 largest and most imbalanced college superclasses between 2015/16 and 2016/17. This has increased by at least 1 percentage point in 9 out of the 10 largest and most imbalanced college superclasses since the baseline measurement in 2012/13. The target is a 5% increase across each superclass, and/or a 10% average share, by 2021.


  • Figures for 2017/18 show that 68.5% of college learners aged 16 – 24 successfully completed their course. This is an increase of 0.7 percentage points from 67.8% in 2016/17, and an increase of 0.4 percentage points compared to the 2012/13 baseline figure (68.1%);
  • In 2017/18, 66.9% of senior phase pupils studying vocational qualifications at college successfully completed – this is an increase of 3.6 percentage points since 2016/17 (when the figure was 63.3%), and an increase of 0.9 percentage points since 2013/14 (the baseline, when the figure was 66%).

(This activity delivers on Developing the Young Workforce Recommendations 4, 5, 6, 12, 17, 29, 34).

Raising attainment is a shared priority across education. It's important, therefore, that the different parts of the education and skills system work well together to make it as easy as possible for learners to achieve and progress successfully into employment.

Responding to the different learning styles and support needs of a diverse group of learners is a key priority for colleges, to ensure students successfully complete their course and progress to higher level study or work.

DYW states an ambition for collaboration between colleges and schools, and the progress of this was set out in Chapter One. In addition, DYW supports the Scottish Government's ambition for a world-class system of vocational education, in which colleges work with schools and employers to deliver learning that is directly relevant to getting a job and building a career through further and higher education.

To support this activity, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) works with colleges and other partners at regional and national levels to oversee and support the college sector to:

  • Ensure young people are able to access more vocational options during the Senior Phase of secondary school, which deliver routes into good jobs and careers, developed through effective partnership between schools, colleges, local authorities and other partners;
  • Improve opportunities and experiences for all learners, with a focus on reducing gender imbalance on course take-up;
  • Align college provision with economic needs and regional planning, with a focus on STEM where appropriate;
  • Support college leaders and staff to develop the skills required to meet the Commission's ambitions for the sector;
  • Maximise employer engagement; and
  • Develop college outcome agreements to underpin improvements and measure progress.


SFC continues to make good progress in supporting colleges in engaging in DYW activity, including senior phase expansion, employer engagement and improving gender balance and tackling gender stereotyping.

Colleges are focused on increasing the number of vocational opportunities available to young people in the Senior Phase and supporting them to sustain and complete these courses alongside their broader curriculum offer. We see further evidence of positive progress in this area – with a slight increase in the number of young people completing these courses during this reporting year. Figures for 2017/18 show that 66.9% of senior phase pupils studying vocational qualifications delivered by college successfully completed. This is an increase of 3.6 percentage points since 2016/17 and an increase of 0.9 percentage points since 2013/14, the baseline year.

We continue to see more students successfully completing a full time course and moving into Higher Education or employment. Figures for 2017/18 show that 86.4% of college leavers who have successfully completed a full time course go onto employment or higher level study. This is an increase of 1.1 percentage points from 2016/17, when 85.3% of young people made this transition, and an increase of 3.5 percentage points since the baseline year, 2014/15 (when the figure was 82.9%).

At the same time we see more college learners aged 16-24 successfully completing their course. Figures for 2017/18 show that 68.5% of college learners aged 16 – 24 successfully completed their course. This is an increase of 0.7 percentage points from 67.8% in 2016/17, and an increase of 0.4 percentage points compared to the 2012/13 (68.1%), the baseline figures against which progress is measured.


We continue to see more and more young people engage in Senior Phase vocational pathways. The SFC supports colleges to create these new opportunities and reports on this activity annually. We expect to see figures for 2018/19 published in February 2020.

From the data above, we see a year on year increase in the number of Senior Phase students taking up this offer, and SFC projects these figures to continue to increase, so that we see this activity accounting for around 10% of college activity by the end of the programme (2021).

Creating the conditions for expansion

SFC supports colleges to engage in DYW through the Outcome Agreement process. These are also used to illustrate the progress of Senior Phase expansion and provide information on the courses young people are undertaking nationally.

The SFC support colleges to deliver Skills for Work courses that focus on employability skills that are needed for success in the workplace. The courses offer opportunities to learn these skills through a variety of practical experiences that are linked to vocational areas. The courses provide progression pathways to further education, training and employment. Experiential learning in appropriate learning environments is an essential feature of each course.

These awards are designed to be a pathway to higher level qualifications as part of a broad Senior Phase offer and whilst we see good progress in increasing numbers of enrolments, a focus for SFC in the years ahead will be to explore how progression to HNC or equivalent opportunities can be supported.

Supporting Employer Engagement in Further Education

Meeting the needs of employers and industry is central to the planning and delivery of provision for Scotland's colleges. Partnerships between individual colleges and employers develop continuously and reflect national priorities and local and regional employer needs. A priority for the DYW programme is to support the college sector to work closely with employers to continuously review and enhance the curriculum and quality of provision.

The SFC and Education Scotland work collaboratively on arrangements for assuring and improving the quality of provision and services in Scotland's colleges. From AY 2018/19 this process has included evaluating and enhancing college-employer engagement.

Through this process colleges are asked to evaluate the quality of employer engagement at strategic, operational and practitioner levels. In July 2019, all colleges provided an update on this activity within their Evaluation Report, and have identified areas for improvement within their Enhancement Plan (EREP).

SFC have been working in collaboration with Education Scotland to understand the extent of employer engagement and to establish areas of good practice and areas requiring further work. In September 2019, a report summarising this activity was published, identifying strengths and areas for further development. These are summarised in the table below:

Strengths Areas for improvement
Almost all colleges cite strengths in developing the curriculum in line with national priorities and the ambitions of DYW. These predominantly refer to the portfolio of provision and design of the curriculum being informed by national policy and supporting local and regional economic demand. A quarter of colleges recognise a need to involve employers more systematically in evaluation and curriculum planning processes, particularly in relation to identifying current and emerging industry skill requirements.
Almost all colleges cite strengths in the effective use of Labour Market Intelligence to plan the curriculum and in eliciting and incorporating the views of employers and industry stakeholders to plan for improvement. These mainly refer to the range of approaches used to engage employers. A few colleges report an area for development in improving the consistency and productivity of curriculum teams in engaging employers and industry partners in evaluation and planning processes.
Almost all colleges report strengths in providing suitable entry and exit points to ease access and transition to learning, and progression to further learning and work. More than a few colleges report an area for development regarding the need to increase work placement and work-based learning opportunities to equip learners for the workplace; and raising the profile and prioritising of work-based learning activities within curriculum planning processes.
Almost all colleges report strengths in lecturer maintenance and application of up-to-date knowledge of industry and workplace practice to support learning.
The majority of colleges cite strengths in the incorporation and planning of work-based learning activities to develop employability.

The findings will be used by SFC to direct colleges to focus on themes pertaining to employer collaboration within the next cycle of Outcome Agreements (AY 2020/21) and evaluative reporting. In addition, College Development Network (CDN) is working with Education Scotland to devise training programmes for colleges based on the needs identified in the aforementioned report.

Increasing employer engagement with colleges

The most recent published Outcome Agreements (AY 2019/20) set out how college regions are working to forge closer links with employers, to better align curriculum planning and employer demand, address skills shortages and create more work placements for learners by:

  • Establishing employer/industry advisory boards to review and enhance curriculum quality, planning and outcomes. Advisory boards ensure that the curriculum addresses current needs, forecasts future skills demands and provision is aligned with the employment priorities of local business;
  • Engaging with local DYW Boards and the benefits of this engagement in providing structured vocational pathways that support young people into sustained and successful careers;
  • Developing the college-led Regional STEM Hubs, leveraging momentum around the national STEM Strategy and fostering close links with employers, schools and universities around Career-Long Professional Learning (CLPL) and STEM engagement;
  • Setting out ambitions to further develop vocational pathways, apprenticeships and workplace learning in partnership with employers;
  • Increasing the number of courses with significant work placement opportunities available.

We are pleased to see a number of examples of employer engagement that meet the needs of students, and enable them to gain the skills required to succeed and move into positive destinations, such as:

  • Fife College - who work closely with a wide range of employers such as Babcock, Fife Council, SSE, SGN, Oceaneering, Diageo, Marine Harvest and Edinburgh City Council, to design and deliver bespoke courses which provide employees with the skills and qualifications necessary for their current roles and / or successful career progression;
  • NESCOL - the Moray East Windfarm and proposed Moray West Windfarm projects are specifically highlighted as strategic opportunities for NESCOL. The College's partnership with the Fraserburgh Harbour Commissioners and Aberdeenshire Council is instrumental in securing the long-term operation and maintenance activity for Fraserburgh.

From next year, all colleges will provide an update on this work to support us in establishing a robust evidence base of colleges' contribution to DYW activity.

A picture is developing of the rationale and activity around employer engagement colleges are engaging in. The challenge will be how this is used as an evidence base to drive future activity. We will continue to work with partners to consider how we can further support and galvanise productive college and employer collaboration.

Gender Action Plan

We are pleased to see progress in the delivery of SFC's ambitious Gender Action Plan (GAP). Figures for 2016/17 show that the minority gender share increased by at least 1 percentage point in 6 out of the 10 largest and most imbalanced college superclasses between 2015/16 and 2016/17. This has increased by at least 1 percentage point in 9 out of the 10 largest and most imbalanced college superclasses since the baseline measurement in 2012/13. The target is a 5% increase across each superclass, and/or a 10% average share, by 2021.

SFC report on this progress annually, the latest progress report having been published in February 2019.

To support colleges engage with the plan, SFC held the National Gender Conference on 25 October 2018. This event examined the impact of intersectional approaches to tackling GAP aims and targets. In addition, SFC conducted a survey with the sector to analyse progress in tackling gender imbalances. The purpose of the survey was to gather in-depth feedback from institutions, practitioners and sector bodies to further enhance the work of the GAP. Feedback highlighted institutional GAPs were having a positive impact on increasing momentum and a range of positive activity (such as the Men in Early Years case study example within this report).

To put learners at the heart of this activity, colleges continue to engage with students to seek their views on how the sector can overcome gender inequality and imbalance. This work is driven by a joint SPARQS/NUS project working with colleges and universities to develop student bodies' capacity to engage with institutional Gender Action Plans. A report summarising this activity is being used by SFC as a basis to support all institutions to involve students in this work.

Despite the range of activity to tackle gender imbalance, data on course/subject choices being made by SPVP students indicates a persistent pattern of gender imbalance. The trend in SPVP subjects with the biggest gender imbalances remains consistent. Gender imbalances in SPVP subject choices appear more entrenched that those for the wider college population.

The average minority gender share across the 10 most imbalanced college superclasses is 8% for 2016/17. Although the target of 10% has not been achieved, we have seen positive progress towards this with an increased from 5% in 2012/13. We note progress with the minority gender share currently ranges from 3% in Building/Construction Operations to 16% in Engineering/Technology.

The college sector has also had success in increasing the volume and proportion of male students undertaking qualifications in Early Learning and Childcare (ELC), to support the Scottish Government commitment to increasing the entitlement of fully funded, high quality, early years education for all 3 year olds and eligible 2 year olds, to 1140 hours each year.

Supporting more effective learner journeys

To support the sector in establishing the range of activity being progressed in support of young people's transitions, SFC conducted a survey to assess the extent to which colleges engage with Community Planning Partnership Local Outcome Improvement Plans (CPP-LOIPs), Developing the Young Workforce Regional Groups and employment search services. The survey sought to establish a baseline of college engagement across each.

Through survey responses, colleges described a range of activity being undertaken to support different stages of the learner journey. SFC data show that 90% colleges have undertaken jointly planned activity with their DYW Regional Group. These included both general information sharing and subject/industry specific activities:

  • Insight events for teachers/lecturers;
  • Best practice sharing events and forums with relevant stakeholders;
  • Information events for employers;
  • Taster days, roadshows and events for pupils;
  • Annual DYW conferences;
  • Employer forums;
  • Career and job fayres.

In addition, 85% colleges have worked with their DYW Regional Group to increase opportunities for work based learning and work opportunities.


We will build on progress to date and that of the College Improvement Project, a project aimed at improving retention and raising attainment in Further Education by using a quality improvement approach to developing evidence based practice, to support institutions to provide a bespoke learning experience for all students. SFC will continue to focus on supporting more school and college learners to successfully complete their courses. In addition, SFC are mindful of the need to:

  • Support the ongoing professional development of schools and colleges to increase collaboration for the benefit of the learner;
  • Overcome regional variability, and that whilst we are seeing impact at a local level, there remains inconsistency across the system and we must work to address this to ensure the consistent delivery of outcomes for all of our young people;
  • Develop more education-employer partnerships, to be responsive to local needs and ensure that quality opportunities are created, including work placements in line with the Work Placement Standard.

Next Steps

During 2019 - 2020, we expect to see:

  • College outcome agreements for academic year 2020-21 reflect a regional curriculum, with vocational options widely available, informed by secondary schools, local authorities and employers;
  • Reporting on employer engagement.

During 2020 - 2021, we expect to see:

  • College outcome agreements for academic year 2021-22 reflect a regional curriculum, with vocational options widely available, informed by secondary schools, local authorities and employers.

Case Study: Ayrshire College support the Aerospace sector to reach new heights

Aerospace plays a major part in the Ayrshire economy and is a regional niche sector. The local cluster currently has a combined turnover of around £575 million, with ambitions to increase this to £1.6 billion. As a partner of the Prestwick Aerospace Strategic Partnership, Ayrshire College supports employers in the industry by ensuring there is an adequate pool of skilled people to meet their business needs.

The College has strong relationships with employers, as evidenced through an innovative technical training solution with Spirit Aerosystems, implemented in January 2018. The College entered a new partnership with Spirit Aerosystems to provide technical training solutions to their current and new staff. This is in addition to the extensive apprenticeship programme already provided to the company. The new technical training was delivered by a dedicated vocational trainer employed by the College, who provided accreditation and upskilling of Spirit's current 1,000-strong workforce as well as providing introductory training to new employees at the Prestwick site. In 2019-20, the College will continue to support this initiative and help develop the training being offered to meet the needs of newly acquired production lines being introduced in 2019.

Following the creation of industry standard composites centre on the Ayr Campus, Ayrshire College will continue to be the partner of choice for composite repair and testing for the aerospace and renewables sectors. This will include increasing the number of full-time students trained in composites, as well as bespoke courses for industry partners. The College work with industry to monitor and respond to changes in technology and practices, ensuring provision remains current and relevant. The College work with the Prestwick Spaceport team to develop and plan for the skills required for this venture and provide the support required to maximise the opportunity for success.

The College uses Industry Skills Forums to develop and validate their curriculum offer to ensure it responds to industry sector needs, for example in aerospace, engineering, science, digital, and health & social care. Externally established groups include Prestwick Aerospace Group and the Ayrshire Engineering Alliance, as well as a partnership with the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland.

Recent developments from the Scottish and UK governments mean that the Ayrshire Growth Deal (AGD) is now entering a period of development leading to implementation. Associated projects such as the Spaceport, innovation centres in advanced manufacturing and life sciences, and coastal regeneration will transfer the regional economy over time. In AY2018-19, the College continued to work with the AGD team, local authority economic development teams, the emerging regional economic development pilot and local industry to support this activity and maximise the benefits of the developments for Ayrshire's communities. Current and future skills needs will be defined and developed as these projects and discussions evolve.



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