1. Introduction and Research Aims
This report presents the findings from an evaluation of the Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF). This was commissioned by the Scottish Government's Skills Division and was undertaken by EKOS Ltd between December 2021 and August 2022.
A Steering Group of representatives from Scottish Government, Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) directed the research.
Research aims and objectives
The aim of the research was to evaluate the delivery and impact of the FWDF since its launch in academic year 2017/18 (pilot year) to the completion of Year 4 delivery (academic year 2020/21).
The evaluation has sought to provide an understanding of:
- The benefits achieved and the impact that the FWDF has had on meeting both employers and individuals' training needs, addressing skill gaps, supporting workforce development, and promoting inclusive economic growth.
- How the FWDF has been experienced by those engaging with it in relation to equalities, the reach of the Fund, and the difference it has made.
- Lessons learned and recommendations to inform the future delivery of the FWDF and the development of national policy on upskilling/retraining and in-work learning.
The research objectives were to:
- Consider the core principles, intended outcomes and aims and objectives of the Fund, and assess the extent to which these have been achieved and have had the impact they were expected to have.
- Explore the reach of the FWDF and the extent to which emerging employer demand has been understood and met.
- Understand how the management and delivery of the FWDF has been experienced by those engaging with it (for employers, individuals and wider stakeholders) and identify any enablers or challenges.
- Examine the benefits and impact (both positive and negative) that the FWDF has had for businesses, individuals participating in training, and the colleges who have delivered the training in terms of training needs, addressing the skills gaps, and workforce and business development.
- Examine the impact the Fund has had on tackling inequality and supporting those with protected characteristics including any enablers or challenges.
- Review the implementation of the changes – Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and non-college provision - introduced in Year 4 (academic year 2020/21) and assess the impact on businesses and individuals.
- Identify key learning points and provide evidence-based policy recommendations on the future of FWDF, and on aligning workforce development within the future skills system.
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