Ministerial joint bilateral meeting minutes: 14 December 2022

Minutes of the meeting held on 14 December 2022.

Attendees and apologies

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

Scottish Government

  • Adam Reid, Deputy Director, Directorate for Lifelong Learning and Skills
  • Elspeth Hough, Head of Programmes Unit, DLSS
  • Kirstie Corbett, Unit Head, Advanced Learning and Skills Analysis, Directorate for Learning
  • Rachael Patterson, Ministerial Private Office
  • Mary Maxwell, Senior Policy Officer, Programmes Unit, DLSS
  • Alex Brown, Policy Officer, Programmes Unit, DLSS

Scottish Funding Council

  • Karen Watt, Chief Executive
  • Claire McPherson, Deputy Director, Policy and Insights
  • Sharon Drysdale, Deputy Director, Skills and Economic Recovery
  • Elizabeth Shevlin, Deputy Director, Responsibility for Pathfinders
  • James Dunphy, Director of Access, Learning and Provision
  • Sinead Griffin, Business Manager

Skills Development Scotland

  • Frank Mitchell, Chair SDS
  • Damian Yeates, Chief Executive
  • Diane Greenlees, Director, Critical Skills and Occupations
  • Chris Brodie, Director of Regional Skills Planning and Sector Development


  • Mike Cantlay, Chair SFC
  • Stephen Pathirana, Director of Advanced Learning and Science (ALS)
  • Helen Webster, Deputy Director, Advanced Learning and Science (ALS)

Items and actions


The Minister welcomed participants to the meeting and thanked everyone for their contribution to the good progress that has been made this year. This meeting followed the Shared Outcomes Assurance Group meeting which had taken place on 29 November 2022.

Project updates by exception

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

Foundation Apprenticeships (SOAG/22/01): and Graduate Apprenticeships (SOAG/22/02):

Previously overdue milestones had now all moved to green (on track) or blue (completed). The overall RAG rating of the projects is expected return to green, from amber, once the approach for apprenticeships for academic year 2023 to 2024 had been determined. 

Progress had also been made on the implementation of the Inter-Operational Plan: a single process of reporting for colleges and universities had been agreed.  The target for GA’s was on track with circa 1200 recruited to date and two universities still recruiting until March.  By self-reporting it has been determined that in excess of 5000 FA opportunities have been filled this year, a record.  

The GA Annual Report will be published on 20 December 2022 and the FA Annual Report in January.

Education and Skills Impact Framework (SOAG/22/03):

The London Economics Econometric Analysis Report and 3 accompanying contextual reports (college, universities and MA pathways) were published on 2nd December.  The ESIF Collaborative Working Group would meet in January to reflect on progress, next steps and how to situate this work within the context of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation and broader reform of the Education and Skills system.   

Regional Pathfinders: N-E(SOAG/22/04) and South of Scotland (SOAG/22/05)

SFC confirmed that learning from Work Package 1 will be published before Christmas, and thanked SDS colleagues for their contribution to this work. The National Advisory Board has met for a second time.  There has been excellent progress in design of the final pilots for Work Package 2 and a press release on the work with the National Energy Skills Accelerator (NESA) is to be issued this week.  The focus moving forward will be on capturing and disseminating learning. It was noted that this work has stimulated further collaborative discussions beyond the remit of the specific pathfinder projects.

CESAP Pathfinder: (WP1 Net Zero) (SOAG/22/06) and (WP2 Commercial and Domestic heating in buildings) (SOAG/22/07)

WP1: The Green Jobs Report had been published on 10th November and had been welcomed by the Scottish Government and had generated interest from other agencies. The Gap Analysis and Resource Provision will report in January.

WP2: Good progress has been made and the Gateway Review is on course to take place in the first quarter of 2023. SDS is also supporting CESAP Refresh which is being led by the Scottish Government.

The Minister noted that he chaired the newly convened Ministerial Skills Group, which was taking a particular interest in Green Skills and that it was possible that the Group would wish to hear more about the CESAP Pathfinder in due course.

Upskilling/Reskilling (SOAG/22/08)

There will be substantive discussion of upskilling and reskilling at the January SOAG and it will be reported on at the next bilateral in February. The NSET Skilled Workforce Programme Board had met earlier in the week and discussed the provision of skills required for the economy.  The SFC noted that there are case studies published on the 2021 to 2022 Outcomes Agreement page of the SFC website; in the document entitled, ‘Delivering Economic and Social Benefit through Tertiary Education and Research – College and University Case Studies 2021 to 2022’.  This document provided good examples of successful upskilling.

The Minister thanked everyone for the project updates and indicated that he was keen to ensure that this good progress was reflected back to Parliament. He also asked to be kept apprised of the timing of impending publications particularly where these could be of interest to Parliament.

Reflections on progress and reporting to parliamentary committees

The Minister noted that the anniversary of the publication of Audit Scotland’s report, ‘Planning For Skills’ would fall in January 2023 and that this would be an appropriate moment to write to both the Public Audit Committee and the Education, Children and Young People Committee to inform them of the progress that has been made in the past twelve months. 

It was agreed in principle that the Minister and the Chairs of SDS and SFC should co-sign a joint letter to the Parliamentary Committees documenting progress. This would include links to all the published reports which had been referenced.

Priorities for 2023 and reflections of chairs/ chief executives

The Minister confirmed that he continued to find the bilateral meetings to be an extremely useful forum for reporting and discussion and that he was keen to continue with this approach in the New Year.

The meeting discussed the importance of prioritising completion of the projects on the Shared Outcomes Framework and the need to support to mainstreaming the good practice from pilot projects.  SFC confirmed that a new team had been established with responsibility to take forward coherence of learning provision including identification and dissemination of learning opportunities from the pathfinders.

The meeting discussed also the connections between the future work of the Shared Outcomes Assurance Group and the NSET Skilled Workforce Programme.  It also noted that additional work to drive skills alignment continued, both separately and jointly, for example in relation to the Careers Review, in collaboration with NHS Education for Scotland and in response to arising requests from industry.

The meeting reflected briefly on changes to the landscape over the last 12 months, noting that ongoing Reviews including Withers and Haywood would report in the springtime providing greater certainty for the phase ahead. The Scottish budget was to be announced on the following day; it remained critical to use resources purposefully.

SDS and SFC outlined plans to hold further collaborative meetings of their Boards in the New Year.

Any other business

The Chair of SFC noted that this meeting was Claire McPherson’s last engagement as a member of SFC and thanked her for all her work. This sentiment was echoed by the Minister and meeting participants.

The Minister thanked participants, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a productive New Year.  


  • appropriate notice of publications of relevance to the SOAG to be communicated amongst SOAG partners
  • SG, SFC and SDS to collaborate on the drafting of a joint letter to the Parliamentary Committees
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