Ministerial joint bilateral meeting minutes: 01 February 2023

Minutes of the meeting held on 1 February 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training

Skills Development Scotland

  • Damien Yeates, Chief Executive
  • Chris Brodie, Director of Regional Skills Planning and Sector Development
  • Diane Greenlees, Director, Critical Skills and Occupations

Scottish Funding Council

  • Mike Cantlay, Chair
  • Karen Watt, Chief Executive
  • Sharon Drysdale,  Deputy Director, Work-based Learning and Skills Programmes
  • Elizabeth Shevlin, Deputy Director, Coherent Learning Provision
  • Sinead Griffin, Business Manager

Scottish Government

  • Stephen Pathirana, Director, Directorate for Lifelong Learning and Skills
  • Adam Reid, Deputy Director, Directorate for Lifelong Learning and Skills
  • Jane Duffy, Head of Apprenticeships and Lifetime Skills
  • Scott Burgess, Assistant Private Secretary
  • Elspeth Hough, Head of Programmes Unit, (Secretariat)


  • Frank Mitchell (Chair), Skills Development Scotland
  • James Dunphy, Director of Access, Learning and Provision Scottish Funding Council
  • Helen Webster, Deputy Director, Directorate for Lifelong Learning and Skill, Scottish Government

Items and actions


 The Minister welcomed participants to the virtual meeting.

 The meeting heard updates on the projects on the Shared Outcomes Framework. The following points were made:

Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships

  • SFC and SDS were now in the second year of interagency arrangements which had embedded well. Guidance on Foundation Apprenticeships had now been published and a record number of FAs had now begun, in excess of the projected 5000. A final data check on this would take place. The Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeship report had been drafted and was also being checked; this was now expected to be published in March 2023  
  • SFC and SDS were continuing to contribute to the Foundation Apprenticeship Enhancement Group which was developing an Improvement Plan for FAs 
  • phase 2 of the FA would be critical; work was underway to align proposed changes to FAs to Education Reform plans
  • the Annual Report on Graduate Apprenticeships had been published in December 2022: this confirmed 1378 GAs had started with final enrolment figures to be verified at end March 2023
  • the risk rating for the projects remained at amber, pending the conclusions of discussions underway about expectations for 2023/24
  • it was helpful to continue to report an aggregated figure of those undertaking apprenticeships and this was being progressed for inclusion in the year-end statistics
  • Apprenticeship Week was taking place from 6-10 March, with many activities planned across Scotland

Education and Skills Impact Framework

The Collaborative Working Group was meeting on 10 February 2023 and would consider the potential for future joint analytical work.

Regional Pathfinders

Letters of grant for the pilot projects had been issued before Christmas.

The data and analysis report concluding phase 1 had been published in December.

The Regional Development boards would meet in February.

CESAP Pathfinders

Phase 1 of Work Package 1 was scheduled to end in 6-8 weeks: a final report was being produced together with a research summary of outputs. 

A Decarbonisation of Heat in Buildings subgroup had been established and the draft of the Investment Pipeline was now complete. The Gateway Review would take place in February.

Upskilling and reskilling

Jane Duffy introduced a short paper outlining the work on upskilling and reskilling which now formed part of the NSET Project 12: Lifelong Learning. The aim of this work was to simplify and strengthen support for adult upskilling and reskilling as part of an ambition to embed a culture of lifelong learning where individuals and employers are motivated to invest in and take up training opportunities.

The following points were made in discussion:

  • there was a need to relate this work to the other projects of SOF and indeed the wider reform of the post 16 education, skills and research system
  • it was helpful to look to international best practice and to comparators of employer investment
  • it was also important to consider whether aspects of our current approach created unnecessary barriers and impediments
  • there was scope for government to consider developing propositions of support e.g. stratified entitlement to encourage individuals to develop skills for areas of shortage (e.g. STEM) however, it remained important to engage industry more effectively to collaborate in developing a sustainable model for funding lifelong learning
  • unions have expressed interest in encouraging employers to increase investment in skills
  • collectively, we could do more to highlight exemplar businesses and industries and the benefits they have derived from investing in skills for their workforce; there were some creative examples of industry groups looking to new routes to address skill shortages e.g. Tourism Industry Leaders’ Group
  • the Flexible Workforce Development Fund had been broadly welcomed and the recently published evaluation was extremely positive; it was now important to look to 24/25 and beyond

There was a short discussion noting the value of these regular meetings to discuss progress and enhance collaboration, building on the programme of Shared Outcomes Assurance Groups.  Officials were meeting later in the week to consider the forward programme for 2023.

The Minister thanked participants for their interventions.


  • officials from the three organisations to consider how to mark the success of the increase in apprenticeships achieved
  • officials to confirm aggregated apprenticeship figures at the year-end
  • officials to liaise to organise for the Minister to visit the CESAP and regional pathfinder projects
  • the Minister indicated that he wished to write to the Public Audit Committee and the Education, Children and Young People Committees following the publication of the forthcoming evaluation of Individual Training Accounts to highlight areas of good practice
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