Ministerial joint bilateral meeting minutes: 22 March 2022

Minutes of the meeting between Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council, held on 22 March 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training (JH)

Scottish Government 

  • Helena Gray (HG), Director Fair Work, Economy and Skills (FWES)
  •  Stephen Pathirana (SP), Director Advanced Learning and Science (ALS)
  • Adam Reid (AR) Deputy Director FWES
  • Lesley Ward, Head of Strategy Unit, ALS
  • Helen Webster (HW), Deputy Director, ALS
  • Pauline Radcliffe, Head of SFC Sponsorship, ALS (minutes)
  • Rachael Patterson, Ministerial Private Office

Scottish Funding Council

  • Karen Watt (KW) Chief Executive
  • Mike Cantlay (MC) Chair
  • Claire McPherson (CM) Deputy Director Policy and Insights
  • Sharon Drysdale (SD) Deputy Director, Skills & Economic Recovery; Sinead Griffin, Business Manager.

Skills Development Scotland

  • Damien Yeates (DY) Chief Executive
  • Frank Mitchell (FM) Chair
  • Chris Brodie, (CB). Director of Regional Skills Planning and Sector Development

Items and actions

Shared Outcomes Framework (SOF) – next steps and ways of working 

The meeting discussed the recent Public Audit Committee (PAC) sessions on the Audit Scotland Planning for Skills" report. There had been an understandable level of scrutiny by the Public Audit Committee, underlining the importance of process and best use of these meetings for reporting on timescales and progress against the Shared Outcomes Framework.

It was recognised that this level of scrutiny would likely and justifiably be sustained until clear outcomes had been demonstrated. There was a need to ensure a key focus on delivery, and for clear and high-quality reporting against the outcomes and timescales in the published framework. It was also noted that the Framework had been published as an iterative document and that the need for further work to refine milestones and indicators on projects had been acknowledged at the time of publication. The Minister noted that officials were working with the agencies to pick this up.

It was also crucial to ensure that governance and reporting arrangements for the SOF and the NSET would align with one another and for the latter to reflect the wider work of both agencies, for example the important work delivered through SFC and with FE and HE institutions on the other key programmes including Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

There was brief discussion of opportunities for Ministerial engagement across the breadth of Agency work. It was noted that the Eleanor Ryan Review of Sponsorship of Public Bodies set out recommendations for the Scottish Government’s engagement with the boards of public bodies and that this was a useful context for SG attendance at agency board meetings.

Action: FWES to liaise with ALS to ensure consistency of approach in attendance at agency board meetings.

Shared Outcome Framework Project focus – apprenticeships 

It was noted that Foundation Apprenticeships (FAs) and Graduate Apprenticeships (GAs) had seen good recruitment and completion rates in 2021/2022 despite the continuing challenges faced.

FAs places and allocations across colleges, local authorities and private training providers for 22/23 would amount to 5,000: this was regarded by the agencies as achievable.

It was noted that demand for GAs remained high.

It was noted that the target for apprenticeships was an aggregate target for Modern Apprentices (MAs) and GAs and that this should be reflected in communications.

It was anticipated that the Shared Outcomes Assurance Group (SOAG) would discuss apprenticeships in depth, within the context of work to explore our cohesive response to economic and social needs as articulated in NSET.

Action: SOAG to discuss apprenticeships before the summer recess.

Update on pathfinders 

There was an update on the Pathfinders, during which the following points were noted:

  • the workplan for CESAP had now been completed and SDS had identified where SFC could provide support, within their available resources; good progress had been made on mapping demand
  • SFC had taken steps to addressing resourcing and capacity for the pathfinders
  • SFC had now finalised preparatory work for regional Pathfinders, to ensure that they were deliverable and met the expected outcomes as described. Regional Pathfinder delivery boards also had been established and SFC were looking at a package of priorities at regional level designed to ensure better planning and curriculum design in terms of responsiveness
  • both agencies reported a high level of interest in the pathfinders amongst key partner organisations

In discussion it was agreed that there was a need to focus in the first instance on the original intent and outcomes of the Pathfinders, and then build on that progress, encouraging collaborative endeavours across the sectors, led by the sectors themselves. 

Action: SOAG and ESIF Collaborative Working Group to liaise on ensuring appropriate governance embedded within their processes.


It was noted that SOAG had agreed at its previous discussion that it would become the escalation group for the Economic and Social Impacts Framework (ESIF): this would be embedded in governance going forward.

There was an outstanding need to set a date for a joint SG directorates, SDS and SFC meeting to explore the opportunities provided by the Spending Review to achieve more balance in the education and skills system and available resources directed more toward economic and social needs. 

Action: agencies to agree date for joint SG/agency meeting on Resource Spending Review as soon as possible. (SDS/SFC)



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