Ministerial joint bilateral meeting minutes: 7 September 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 7 September 2022.

Attendees and apologies

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

Scottish Government 

  • Helena Gray (HG) Director of Fair Work, Employability and Skills (FWES)
  • Helen Webster (HW), Deputy Director, Advanced Learning and Science (ALS) 
  • Adam Reid (AR), Deputy Director (FWES)
  • Elspeth Hough, Head of Programmes Unit, ALS
  • Linda McCourt, Policy Team Leader, ALS
  • Rachael Patterson, Ministerial Private Office

Scottish Funding Council (SFC)

  • Mike Cantlay (MC) Chair
  • Karen Watt (KW) Chief Executive
  • Claire McPherson (CM) Deputy Director, Policy and Insights
  • Sharon Drysdale (SD) Deputy Director, Skills and Economic Recovery
  • James Dunphy (JD) Director of Access, Learning and Provision
  • Sinead Griffin (SG) Business Manager

Skills Development Scotland (SDS)

  • Frank Mitchell (FM) Chair
  • Damian Yeates (DY) Chief Executive
  • Chris Brodie (CB) Director of Regional Skills Planning and Sector Development
  • Diane Greenlees (DG) Director, Critical Skills and Occupations


  • Stephen Pathirana (SP), Director of Advanced Learning and Science

Items and actions


The minister welcomed participants to the meeting and thanked everyone for their contributions to the papers. This meeting followed on from the Shared Outcomes Assurance Group meeting which had taken place on the 23 August 2022.

The minister noted briefly the challenging fiscal context and the proposed review of Skills delivery on which he had answered a Government Inspired Question on 31 August, thanking all for their positive engagement.

Project updates by exception

The meeting heard short updates on the projects on the Shared Outcomes Framework (‘the SOF projects’).

  • the only amber RAG rating relates to the Foundation Apprenticeships: and Graduate Apprenticeships: SDS and SFC updated the minister that this amber risk rating relates to work that is still underway on the development of reporting. systems
  • Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) : 3 contextual reports (college, universities and MA pathways) have now been produced, intended to accompany the publication of the ESIF technical report. Finalised reports will be shared with the Collaborative Working Group and SOAG members. A plan for publication is being developed
  • CESAP (WP1Net Zero) (WP2) Commercial and Domestic heating in buildings: The project is on track and the first reporting outputs have taken place. CESAP WP 2 went live in July 2022 with pilot work taking place in City of Glasgow and Shetland Islands
  • upskilling/reskilling: Discussions are to take place in advance of the next SOAG meeting on the scope of Project 8 on SOF – Upskilling and Reskilling

The minister noted that he welcomed the project updates. He thanked SDS and SFC for organising the recent summer SOF project workshops which provided th opportunity for a more detailed exposition of and discussion of the projects.

Deep dive: Regional Pathfinders

SFC provided an update on the Regional Pathfinders projects which they lead, with SDS as a key partner. The aim of these projects is to further explore what needs to be done to make the education and skills system responsive, integrated and supportive of economic recovery and inclusive growth in each region. The Regional Pathfinders are focused in the North East (N.E) and South of Scotland (SoS) regions of Scotland.

The senior reporing officer (SRO) provided an outline of the projects, noting that there are four work packages to be delivered by March 2023. In terms of progress, there has been successful collaboration and partnership working between SDS and SFC. They have taken a pragmatic approach to the changing economic environment and recognised the strong supportive sectoral responses from both North East and South of Scotland partners.

The Regional Pathfinders will provide a coherent framework for institutions to support provision planning decisions. Further work may include cross-fertilisation of outcome data across other SOAG pathfinder projects.

There was discussion around the opportunities for ensuring that the learning from the Regional Pathfinders will be used to inform approaches across those institutions and partners involved. This would also apply to those working elsewhere in Scotland that aren’t part of the formal pathfinder projects but are nonetheless engaged in activity designed to best reflect local social and economic priorities and planning.

The minister thanked SFC for the presentation and acknowledged the positive and collaborative progress on the Regional Pathfinders which was taking place. 

The minister suggested it would be helpful to update the Public Audit Committee on progress on the SOF at an appropriate juncture later this year. 

Action: SG Reform division to arrange a meeting in advance of the next SOAG with SFC and SDS to discuss how to apply the learning from the pathfinder work.

There was no AOB.

The minister closed the meeting, thanking participants, encouraging all to continue to press forward and commenting that he had been happy to hear the examples of positive collaboration, both directly between the NDPBs and via SOAG. 

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