Ministerial joint bilateral meeting minutes: 16 March 2023

Minutes from the meeting on 16 March 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Government

  • Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training
  • Adam Reid, Deputy Director, Directorate for Lifelong Learning and Skills (LLS)
  • Jane Duffy, Head of Apprenticeships and Lifetime Skills, LLS
  • Elspeth Hough, Head of Programmes Unit, LLS
  • Linda McCourt, Team Leader, Programmes Unit, LLS
  • Scott Burgess, Assistant Private Secretary

Skills Development Scotland

  • Frank Mitchell (Chair), 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
  • James Dunphy, Director of Access, Learning and Provision Scottish Funding Council
  • Sharon Drysdale,  Deputy Director, Work-based Learning and Skills Programmes
  • Elizabeth Shevlin, Deputy Director, Coherent Learning Provision
  • Sinead Griffin, Business Manager


  • Stephen Pathirana, Director, LLS, Scottish Government
  • Helen Webster, Deputy Director, LLS, Scottish Government

Items and actions


The Minister welcomed participants to the virtual meeting, highlighting how useful he found these regular joint bilaterals.

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

Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships

  • the annual report on Foundation Apprenticeships would be published by the end of March
  • work on data sharing for future reporting on Foundation Apprenticeships (currently an amber milestone) was close to completion
  • the milestones relating to volume and budgets for 22/23 continued to be rated “amber” pending decisions; discussions to confirm delivery were now at the final stage
  • guidance for Graduate Apprenticeships was now complete and this project was consequently rated “blue” in advance of the next annual cycle

Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF)

  • the Collaborative Working Group for ESIF had met in February to confirm that the formal work previously commissioned by the Enterprise Strategic Skills Board (ESSB) was now complete. A “lessons learned” workshop and discussions on future joint analytical work were due to take place in early Spring

Regional Pathfinders

  • good progress continued to be made; meetings of the Regional Delivery Boards had taken place and a workshop had been held to discuss learning from the pilot projects. The National Advisory Board was due to meet before the end of March
  • there would be an opportunity to synthesise the learning from the pilot projects and update Shared Outcomes Assurance Group (SOAG) on the progress at a future meeting

CESAP Pathfinders

  • for work package 1, the final report on the ‘Evidence base for the skills needs for the transition to net zero’ was close to completion and would be shared with partners  ahead of the next SOAG meeting in May
  • for work package 2, ‘Decarbonisation of domestic and commercial heating pilots, the stakeholder engagement had concluded, supply and provision mapping was close to completion and the Gateway Review for the project would be complete by the end of March. An update on the proposed design of a pilot project and a project plan would be provided at the next SOAG meeting

Apprenticeships – deep dive

Jane Duffy introduced a short paper on Apprenticeships, providing an overview of the context for the different models of apprenticeship.

The following points were made in discussion:

  • Scottish Apprenticeship Week had been very successful; a broad range of activities had taken place across Scotland, celebrating apprenticeships including 13 Ministerial visits and a prestigious award ceremony
  • apprenticeships were an important component of work based learning, enabling learners to combine skills acquisition with paid employment. The demand for apprenticeships continued to be high
  • there was useful learning to take from the Foundation Apprenticeship Enhancement Group (FAEG), which had engaged effectively with practitioners and all stakeholders; this was informing planning of the new Graduate Apprenticeship Enhancement Group (GAEG) which would meet before Easter
  • it would be important to ensure that public and private sector employers including members of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board had the opportunity to contribute to the GAEG; the Scottish Government had committed to engagement
  • there was merit also in including representatives of the educational institutions and those with lived experience of all aspects of the GA process: learners/ lecturers/ employers
  • key issues for the FAEG had included achievement rates; for GAs it would be important to focus on tackling identified issues e.g intended audience and impact; development of shorter, sharper product building on the Higher National qualifications
  • there were many excellent examples of work based learning already in place, alongside the Graduate Apprenticeship model

  • Scotland was experiencing a range of skill and labour shortages and it was anticipated that there would continue to be competition for skilled labour for some time. There was a need to ensure a varied portfolio of provision and pathways, responding to economic need. This encompassed apprenticeships, work based learning, college and university courses and opportunities for upskilling and reskilling

  • the Regional Tertiary Pathfinders would look at coherent learning provision across the system using a place based approach in regional and national pathways

  • further work was needed to ensure that learners were aware of the potential pathways open to them, as set out in the recently published Careers Review

Any other business

The Minister thanked participants for their contributions to the discussion and to the ongoing work of the Shared Outcomes Agreement Group.


  • action: officials to liaise to explore opportunities for Ministers to visit the CESAP and Regional Pathfinder projects
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