Skills delivery landscape: call for evidence

This call for evidence paper seeks stakeholder views on Scotland’s skills system. The information gathered will help to inform recommendations to Ministers by James Withers, the Advisor to the Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape.

Part 2 – Apprenticeships

An apprenticeship is a job which lets people earn a wage and gain skills, experience and industry-recognised qualifications. There are three apprenticeship programmes operating in Scotland.

Since 2008 Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has been the public body responsible for the funding and operation of Scotland’s Modern Apprenticeship (MA) programme. MAs are available to anyone in Scotland aged 16 or over and offer industry-recognised qualifications at various SCQF levels. SDS is involved in the design and development of MA frameworks (of which there are over 80 across a range of sectors), and delivers MAs through contracts with independent training providers, colleges, third sector and directly with employers.

MA funding is based on a contribution-rate model which SDS administers. Funding contributions depend on the type of apprenticeship, the qualification level and the age of the apprentice. Funding is in place for all MAs aged 16-24 and funding for individuals aged 25+ is restricted to key and supporting sectors. The contribution is paid directly to the learning provider delivering the apprenticeship.

Following the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Workforce Review in 2014, Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships were introduced. Foundation Apprenticeships (FA) provide work-based learning opportunities for secondary school pupils in S4-S6 as one of their senior phase subject choices at SCQF level 6 (equivalent to Scottish Highers) and, through pilots, at level 4/5. Graduate Apprenticeships (GA), offer work-based learning at SCQF level 9 to 11 (equivalent to undergraduate and postgraduate degree level).

In 2019 the Scottish Government took the decision to move the funding responsibility for Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships to the Scottish Funding Council as part of efforts to identify a sustainable funding solution for the programmes, following the end of European Social Funding (ESF). Since 2021/22 new GA starts have been funded by SFC while FA starts have been funded jointly by SDS (through local authorities and independent training providers) and SFC (through colleges). The two agencies are currently operate a joint delivery model for the FA and GA programmes.

A Review of FAs by Education Scotland HM Inspector of Education (HMIE) published in March 2022 noted the complexity of the current funding and delivery model and presented some challenging messages about the FA programme in relation to design, delivery and impact. The Scottish Government has committed to a phased approach to improvement of the FA programme which will be aligned to the findings of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment being led by Professor Louise Hayward, which is due to report to Ministers in March 2023.

The Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board (SAAB) was created in 2015 in response to a recommendation from the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce Final Report for an MA supervisory board. For the past six years, SAAB, the secretariat for which is housed within SDS, has provided the employer voice and leadership in apprenticeships. Following the closure of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and Sector Skills Councils, SAAB identified a potential gap in employer leadership in the design and development of new apprenticeship frameworks in Scotland as a key priority and assumed specific responsibility for overseeing this aspect of the system.

The Apprenticeship Approvals Group (AAG) was formed in 2019 and took on responsibility for approving new Scottish apprenticeship frameworks in April 2020 with the purpose of establishing a consistent approach to the approval of new MA, FA and GA frameworks. SDS, SG and SQA Accreditation, all sit on the AAG which is chaired by an independent employer representative. The group, like SAAB, is intended to be employer-led and its secretariat is supported by SDS.

Question 6: Do you have any evidence relating to the outcomes of the current funding and delivery of apprenticeship programmes (Modern Apprenticeships, Foundation Apprenticeships and Graduate Apprenticeships) in terms of either outcomes for learners and/or the needs of employers?

Question 7: The Terms of Reference sets out an ambition for apprenticeship programmes to be an embedded part of the wider education system to ensure that there are a range of different pathways available to learners. Do you have any views or evidence on how changes to the operation of apprenticeship programmes could support this ambition?

Question 8: Apprenticeships are often described as being ‘demand-led’. Do you have any evidence about how process for developing and approving apprenticeship frameworks responds to skills priorities? Please include suggestions of how the development process could be enhanced.

Question 9: SAAB and AAG are described as employer-led groups. Do you have evidence on the benefits or risks of employer leadership in apprenticeship development or the impact it has on outcomes for apprentices and/or employers? Please include suggestions for how the governance of apprenticeship design and delivery could be strengthened.



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