Education working for all: developing Scotland's young workforce

Final report from the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce, with 39 recommendations for enhancing vocational education.

Update On Education And Training


We were very gratified at the level of extremely helpful and constructive feedback we have received to our Interim Report. This section evolves and modifies some of the key ideas and proposals, but the submissions have not caused us to change any of the fundamental recommendations and sub-recommendations.

Positive Response & Implementation Plans

The Commission were also very gratified at the positive response received from all sectors and from Scottish Government and COSLA and it's particularly exciting that Scottish Government and Local Authorities are already well underway to plan the implementation of some of the key recommendations.

A key early action area is the implementation planning for the senior phase vocational pathways. Local authorities and colleges across Scotland, supported by the Scottish Funding Council, are working together to map out how young people in the senior phase can move onto NC and HNC courses, and equivalent, as well as providing the opportunity to do the first year of a 3 and 4 year apprenticeship through the new Foundation Apprenticeship, as part of their studies in S4-S6.

We welcome the work going on within the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland to consider how higher level Modern Apprenticeships can be developed over a wider range of occupations and professions in Scotland. This must of course be developed in partnership with employers. We believe this will significantly enhance the appeal of Modern Apprenticeships to young people and employers alike and would hope to see this become a mainstream element of the implementation programme.

Finally, Skills Development Scotland has been considering how it might adapt its careers information, advice and guidance model to support pupils as they make their subject choices. Improving this is vital, and we expect our recommendations on employer engagement with schools will add an important additional element to the whole area of supporting young people to make well-informed subject and career choices.

Update on some of the key recommendations in the Interim Report

The comments in this section come partly from feedback to the Interim Report, and from meetings with the Scottish Government, COSLA and further meetings with the key stakeholders.

(a) We were particularly pleased at the strong, wide ranging support for our comments on the importance of enhancing the esteem of vocational education and careers in Scotland. We would like to see the Scottish Government adopting a five-year plan to take steps to communicate the value of vocational education and subsequent careers to achieve their rightful status. We believe the school/college vocational partnerships, including the introduction of a Foundation Apprenticeship option, will make a good starting contribution here as will the enhanced regional status of colleges and their focus on output.

We would strongly propose a campaign to enhance the esteem of vocational education, focused on parents, pupils and teachers, explaining the school/college vocational partnership programmes and the increased choice this provides. The campaign should highlight the opportunities from vocational education in terms of significant career opportunities and we would hope this would be strongly supported by business and industry.

(b) It's very important that the funding for the school college vocational partnerships is long-term and is drawn from mainstream budgets as it will clearly significantly increase the choices available to young people. It's also important that sufficient funds are made available up front to ensure a successful introduction and implementation of the change. Within this, consideration should be given to the specific challenges of establishing the new approach in remote and island communities.

(c) Our Interim Report emphasises that the Commission does not favour separate academic and vocational streams. Young people should be able to participate in both in line with their career aspirations. This is clearly supported in the responses to our Interim Report with many comments that young people planning to pursue a university pathway would also benefit from and make use of vocational options in the senior phase, and likewise those pupils mainly pursuing vocational options should be able to gain one or two Highers.

(d) It will be important to set targets for the number of young people emerging from this new partnership with qualifications, such as NC's, HNC's, Foundation Apprenticeships and others. These should be measured through the Senior Phase Benchmarking Tool, the College Regional Outcome Agreements and other relevant performance management systems.

(e) There was some feedback on the importance of emphasising enterprise and creativity across education and in the development of the senior phase vocational education programmes. This should include modules on enterprise and business development and the potential of starting up your own business within senior phase vocational pathways, which should also have innovation and creativity content built in.

(f) A key measure in school output is positive destinations. The principle is absolutely right, but care must be taken on the quality of what is accepted as a positive destination. Education leading to a qualification and employment are the best measures of successful transition from school. Short term destinations, not linked to progression into the labour market, should not be included. Our recommendations to widen senior phase options should contribute to more positive destinations among young people including those at risk of disengaging early from education.

(g) Our Interim Report recommended that initial teacher education should include some content on employability, careers and an understanding of the world of work. We understand this may require to be done in the teacher's induction year and this could get support from the school-business partnerships we're recommending in the Final Report.

Likewise, experienced teachers must have the opportunity to access continuous professional development ( CPD) opportunities which include exposure to employability, careers advice and an understanding of the world of work. The new Professional Update process will hopefully ensure teachers have sufficient time and opportunity to widen their skills and experience in these areas. School-business partnerships can help here. Education Scotland should assess the effectiveness of the new Professional Update process.

(h) SDS is working hard to get full benefit from their My World of Work online careers system. This hasn't yet gained full momentum and confidence in all schools, but will be an important component of the careers programme alongside face to face support from a careers guidance professional. The school-business partnerships outlined in this Final Report should provide significant opportunities to greatly enhance careers exposure through work experience, visits to schools by young employees, projects linked to the curriculum (including the STEM curriculum), mentoring and coaching, support in understanding modern recruitment processes, site visits and support in the delivery of enterprise education.

This should be supported by the development of a more comprehensive standard for careers guidance which would include involvement of employers and their role and input. Recommendation 2 has now therefore been revised.

Recommendation 2: A focus on preparing all young people for employment should form a core element of the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence with appropriate resource dedicated to achieve this. In particular local authorities, Skills Development Scotland and employer representative organisations should work together to develop a more comprehensive standard for careers guidance which would reflect the involvement of employers and their role and input.

We are now more strongly of the view that careers information should be provided in primary school along with some introduction to the world of work. This has been a consistent message among many who have responded to the publication of the Interim Report. We think employers should be in a strong position to support this work.

(i) The young people we have spoken to and many employers have emphasised the importance of work experience. Many feel that the current approach is formulaic and does not provide a strong experience. We believe this is critically important and we'd like to add a further recommendation to our Interim Report.

Recommendation 3: A modern standard should be established for the acceptable content and quality of work experience, and guidelines should be made available to employers. This should be developed by Education Scotland in partnership with employer bodies and Skills Development Scotland. This should involve input from young people. Work experience should feature in the Senior Phase Benchmarking Tool and in Education Scotland school inspections.

(j) The feedback included various comments on the importance of encouraging more young people into STEM subjects and the need for an increase in STEM activities in university and colleges. In those cases where an improved approach to STEM education has been introduced into primary schools, this has had a marked positive impact on the take up and performance of STEM subjects in secondary school. For example there's an interesting project in Aberdeen which enables primary teachers to have a week-long summer school for primary teachers focused on STEM subjects.

Modern workforce skills are definitely more focused on STEM skills and further work needs to be done on how we can encourage more young people into STEM subjects in school. In what is a fairly crowded landscape, it will be important moving forward to focus on approaches which have the greatest impact.

(k) The development of the Senior Phase Benchmarking Tool is an important one which will help and encourage schools to widen the range of options available to pupils in the senior phase. It's very important that the desired progress is measured from the start and therefore the new Benchmarking Tool should measure vocational achievements and outcomes on an equal footing with academic qualifications. It's also very important that it measures work experience and the quality of careers service in schools.

(l) In the period since we began our work, we have observed the restructured colleges re-energising and re-inventing themselves positively with the focus on migrating up the technology skills ladder and on the employability of their students. There is no doubt the establishment of the larger colleges on a regional basis and some good progressive leadership at Chair and Principal level are having a positive impact on the resources, innovation and enterprise that colleges will be able to apply in a range of ways to play their full role in developing Scotland's young workforce.

We don't believe colleges should aspire to be 2016 Universities. We believe their focus should be heavily on their distinctive roles in developing modern skills and Scotland's future vocational education and training approach, including apprenticeships.

Based on the vital importance of colleges maximising their potential collaboration with business and industry, we believe there's a case for more business and industry appointments on the college boards as part of a more active relationship between colleges and industry.

We also believe in some colleges there's still nothing like enough focus on work based experience and this must be a priority action.

(m) It is important that further funds have been made available to increase the number of Modern Apprenticeships at Level 3 and above. This and the development of the Foundation Apprenticeships as a school senior phase pathway will result in significantly more apprentices. We highlight the importance of this, particularly to smaller employers, in our Final Report alongside the importance of finding more employers prepared to offer good quality Modern Apprenticeships.

(n) We have placed significant emphasis on the importance of Education Scotland's role moving forward. If anything we extend this in our Final Report. We have already said that this organisation needs to work more closely with industry to build a better understanding of the needs of the modern labour market into its work. This might be strengthened further by a number of secondments from industry and other possible sources to help accelerate this process.

(o) A number of other Scottish Government agencies will also be key to the implementation of the recommendations from the Interim Report and to a number of the recommendations contained in our Final Report. These include Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise [22] , and the Scottish Qualifications Authority. The breadth and nature of the changes we recommend mean that no single organisation could have lead responsibility for their successful implementation. Instead this will require collaboration across agencies, central and local government and beyond. We would encourage all who need to make a contribution to do so in a spirit of collaboration and common purpose.


Email: Fraser Young,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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