Background & policy context
The economic context in which the 2020 Scottish ESS was undertaken, and that in which previous runs of the UK-wide ESS were undertaken, is important to consider when analysing the results. It is important to note that Scottish ESS 2020 fieldwork took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought about vast changes to the employment, skills and training landscape. Prior to the pandemic, Scotland had seen its labour market strengthen, and as of 2019 was outperforming the UK on overall unemployment and labour market outcomes for women and young people. Skills gaps within the workforce, however, were more prevalent in Scotland than the rest of the UK. In this context, the 2020 Scottish ESS provides timely evidence on the impact that COVID-19 has had on the Scottish labour market, and the resulting skills challenges Scottish employers face.
The ESS provides supporting evidence for the Scottish Government's Economic Strategy and Labour Market Strategy, which promote inclusive growth and aim to support employability and skills so that everybody can participate successfully in the labour market.
Scotland's Future Skills Action Plan highlights the crucial role that Scotland's skills system is playing in the labour market, and (among other sources) uses evidence from the Employer Skills Surveys (for example, on the impact of skill-shortage vacancies).
Reflecting the importance of skills and training to the Scottish Economy, various skills measures are monitored as part of Scotland's National Performance Framework (NPF). The NPF uses ESS data on skill-shortage vacancies and skills under-utilisation as well as tracking other data on the skills profile of the population and workplace learning.
The skills under-utilisation measure captured in the Scottish ESS is also one of the indicators that helps Scottish Government to assess how well it is working towards its Fair Work Outcome, to have "thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and Fair Work for everyone". ESS data also forms an important part of performance and monitoring data for the Scottish STEM Strategy, which was launched in 2017. The evidence base from ESS will be used to help monitor the strength of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Scotland and to identify barriers to maximising the potential of STEM.
Finally, the 2020 Scottish ESS will also feed into the work of Skills Development Scotland (SDS). SDS's Strategic Plan sets out how Scotland will achieve a dynamic and responsive skills system, reflecting the current and future needs of the economy. Skills planning and provision will be central to meeting this outcome and SDS's goal is to ensure that this is increasingly demand-led and informed by relevant, timely intelligence, which the Scottish ESS provides.
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