Skills: Shared Outcomes Assurance Group minutes: 4 May 2022

Minutes from the meeting held on 4 May 2022.

Attendees and apologies

​​​​​Scottish Government (SG)

  • Helena Gray (Chair), Director, Fair Work, Employability and Skills (FWES)
  • Stephen Pathirana, Director, Advanced Learning and Science (ALS)
  • Adam Reid, Deputy Director, FWES
  • Richard Murray, Interim Deputy Director, FWES
  • Hannah Garrow, Skills Delivery Unit Head, FWES
  • Stuart King, Senior Principal Research Officer, Office of the Chief Economic Adviser (OCEA)

Skills Development Scotland (SDS)

  • Chris Brodie, Director of Regional Skills Planning and Sector Development
  • Andrea Glass, Head of Regions and Enabling Sectors
  • Diane Greenlees, Director, Critical Skills and Occupations
  • Lynne Robson, Head of Evaluation and Impact
  • John Murray, Director of Change, Assurance and Development
  • Neville Prentice, Senior Director, Service Development and Delivery

Scottish Funding Council (SFC)

  • Sharon Drysdale, Assistant Director Access, Learning and Outcomes
  • Seamus Spencer, Assistant Director/Outcome Agreement Manager
  • Martin Boyle, Director of Policy, Insight and Analysis

Scottish Government Secretariat

  • Elspeth Hough, Head of Programmes Unit, ALS
  • Callam Fowler, Programmes Unit, Secretariat, ALS
  • Graham Robertson, Programmes Unit, ALS


Scottish Government

  • Michael Watney, Programmes Unit, ALS
  • Carron Flockhart, Future Skills Strategy Unit Head, FWES
  • Liz Hawkins, Head of Insights Unit, ALS
  • Mary Maxwell, Tertiary Education, Economy and Community Learning, ALS
  • Laura McKenna SDS Sponsorship team, FWES


  • Helen Webster, Deputy Director, ALS, Scottish Government
  • Claire McPherson, Deputy Director for Policy, Scottish Funding Council

Items and actions


Chair: Helena Gray, Director of Fair Work, Employability and Skills

  • 11:00 to 11:05 welcome and introductions - Chair
  • 11:05 to 11:10 review of SOAG Action Tracker (paper 1) – Chair
  • 11:10 to 11:25 governance: articulation of SOAG and National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) (paper 2) – Secretariat
  • 11:25 to 12:10 review of progress
    • reporting templates/ dashboard – Secretariat (5 mins)
    • project Updates (all 7 projects) (paper 3) – Senior Reporting Officer (SROs) (30 mins)
    • Education and Skills Economic and Social Impact Framework (ESIF) – ESIF SRO (10 mins)   
  • 12:10 to 12:15 preparations for Ministerial meeting – Chair
  • 12:15 to 12:25 priorities for next SOAG – Chair
  • 12:25 to 12:30 AOB – Chair
    • update on the Executive Summary of the Shared Outcomes Framework
    • date of next meeting


Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed attendees to the third meeting of the Shared Outcomes Assurance Group (SOAG).

The Group agreed the minute from the last SOAG meeting.

Review of SOAG Action Tracker

The Group discussed the SOAG Action Tracker. It was agreed that the Action Tracker would be updated to include actions from the Joint Ministerial Bilateral Meeting including the request for SOAG to take a deep dive on apprenticeships prior to the summer recess, and that the published version would reflect these changes. 

The Group agreed to record the actions within the SOAG Action Tracker using a unique ID and date, including the inclusion of deadlines and a reporting status key.

The Group discussed the outstanding SOAG actions for Regional Pathfinders and the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan (CESAP) work package 2, noting that progress on these items would be reviewed at the next SOAG.

In relation to the final item on the Action Tracker, “SOAG and ESIF Collaborative Working Group to liaise on ensuring appropriate governance embedded within their processes”, it was agreed that SG, SFC and SDS leads would take this forward in advance of the next SOAG meeting.

Governance articulation of SOAG and NSET

A paper setting out the proposed articulation of SOAG with governance structures for the NSET had been circulated prior to the meeting.

It was noted that it was intended for the NSET Delivery Board to be the overarching board for all components of the NSET. A Portfolio Board and a suite of Programme Boards would sit beneath this. The Skilled Workforce Programme Board would oversee implementation of the Skilled Workforce chapter of NSET; the work of SOAG would articulate most closely with the sub-programmes 11 and 12 which would report via the Skills Workforce Programme Board. It was intended that the chairs of SOAG would also act as joint-SROs for the Skilled Workforce Programme Board, which would comprise a wider membership than that of SOAG, including stakeholders from across the sector. It was noted that the full membership of the Skilled Workforce Programme Board would be confirmed in due course.

The Group discussed the governance hierarchy structure, noting that it was intended that the Delivery Board would hold a first meeting prior to the summer recess. The Group also noted that there would be a number of governance structures managing and monitoring projects and actions contributing to NSET. The Group discussed the need for reporting arrangements and metrics for the Shared Outcomes Framework (SOF) projects overseen by SOAG to be consistent with those in place for NSET, as well as with the arrangements set out in the Shared Outcomes Framework, reducing the potential for confusion and duplication.

It was noted that work was ongoing to confirm the proposed membership of, and representation on, NSET Boards and that this would include consideration of appropriate agency participation.

It was suggested that it would be valuable to have a more detailed mapping of the connections between SOF, SOAG and NSET and in due course for a full list of current skills interventions – not restricted to those listed in the NSET document - to be developed, identifying how each of these would be governed and would complement NSET.

It was agreed that the governance diagram will be updated to provide a clearer overview of the various boards and groups to map out the projects, and how they are managed, ahead of the next SOAG meeting.

Reporting progress

The meeting discussed the SOAG Update paper which had been circulated to attendees ahead of the meeting; this paper had been populated using information received from SRO’s including reporting templates (PSRs) which had been submitted by SDS for some projects. The Chair highlighted the importance of providing timely project updates to reflect the latest position on the SOF projects ahead of the Ministerial meetings and confirmed that henceforth, all projects would be asked to submit the completed standard reporting template which all have agreed to use. SROs would be asked to report by exception against the template from the next SOAG meeting in June.

The Secretariat reminded the Group of the commitment in the Terms of Reference to develop a summary dashboard for use by SOAG and at the subsequent bilateral Ministerial meeting. The intention was for the dashboard to draw from the completed project reporting templates.

Foundation Apprenticeships (FA) (SOAG/22/01) and Graduate Apprenticeships (GA) (SOAG/22/02)

It was noted that good progress had been made since the last SOAG meeting. SFC had issued indicative allocations for FA college delivery (2500 opportunities) and GA university delivery (1378 opportunities). Meetings were held with individual institutions to inform them of the funding method. Final allocations were due to be confirmed by the end of May.

Through the joint funding and delivery model, SDS were continuing to fund the Local Authority and Independent Learning Providers for FA delivery. SDS have issued awards for 2,500 FA opportunities. Engagement with Local Authorities had been very positive and that this was supporting engagement across providers for uptake of FA opportunities across schools. This would be tracked over the coming months to support the update of the 5,000 opportunities now available across schools and delivered through the mix of providers.

Joint work is being undertaken to develop the annual progress report. Additional work is being undertaken with Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) to develop eligibility criteria for GA’s for Academic Year 2022 to 2023.

It was noted that the Education Scotland review of Foundation Apprenticeships had been published (29 March 2022) and that a stakeholder group – the Foundation Apprenticeship Enhancement Group – has been established to develop and drive forward actions from the Review findings.

Notwithstanding the good progress made, it was noted that some challenges remained with a number of milestones for each of the FA and GA projects still rated red. These were highlighted in the Project Status Reports (PSR). Specifically, there was a need to address governance and dynamic data (reporting) arrangements for interoperations which are important to achieve a joint operational delivery model.

The Group agreed that officials from SG, SDS and SFC should progress discussions and develop a specific proposition to progress vision, governance and accountability issues pertinent to addressing the red milestones on the apprenticeship projects in advance of the next SOAG meeting.

It was also highlighted that agency partners would welcome a clearer articulation from the Scottish Government on the vision and the future policy position for FAs and GAs, as this would enable them to plan ahead on joint delivery and interoperations for Academic Year 23/24, with agreed timescales with SG. The Scottish Government confirmed that work was ongoing to develop policy on FAs and GAs, and that a vision for FAs and GAs would need to be linked to work-based learning and to the development of the Purpose and Principles for Colleges, Universities and post-16 Learning.

Regional Pathfinders: North East (SOAG/22/04) and South of Scotland (SOAG/22/05)

The following points were highlighted in relation to the Regional Pathfinders:

  • work package 1 – good progress had been made, with regional test pilots used as an example, It was also confirmed that resourcing plans were in place to recruit a consultant to further progress this work
  • work package 2 – progress had been made on engagement with institutions’ and employers, further work to take the package forward was planned
  • work package 3 – this had also progressed well and work is underway with institutions to build narrative
  • work package 4 – there had been good interaction with lead academics, with governance being taking forward to national programme board

Members of the Group asked about the timescale for sharing the detailed workplan and whether it was intended for the pathfinders to follow a structure similar to CESAP. SFC confirmed that the workplan will flow from the Pathfinder Delivery Board and will form the basis of an update ahead of the next SOAG meeting. This would enable all to be clear about the resourcing requirements for their part in delivery. The SOAG Action Tracker would also be updated with the relevant dates.

Pathfinders: CESAP – Net Zero (SOAG/22/06) and Commercial and Domestic Heat in Buildings (SOAG/22/07)

The following points were highlighted in relation to a dynamic skills response to support the transition to Net Zero, with two work packages focusing on key priorities:

  • work package 1 (SOAG/22/06) – Good progress had been made, all actions in place, with some outputs marked as complete. It was confirmed that delivery would be a mix of internal and commissioned work, with CESAP short life working group providing oversight. Planned work included wider investment mapping and working with SFC analytical team. The third activity was due to start ahead of the next SOAG meeting. It was noted that a key vacancy had been filled, with the Evidence and Insights manager starting at the end of May 2022.
  • work package 2 (SOAG/22/07) – The detailed work plan for this work package had been shared with SOAG members prior to the March SOAG meeting and again on 8 April. Outstanding written comments were now urgently required to allow this work to progress. These were to be returned to the SRO by 9 May. SFC indicated that temporary capacity constraints arising from illness in the team meant that it would be unlikely to meet this deadline; it was agreed that SFC and SDS would meet to agree a course to closure of this action. 

Lifelong Skilling and Reskilling (SOAG/22/08)

The Scottish Government provided a short update on this project, confirming that the focus of reporting to SOAG would be on the elements of Lifelong Skilling and Reskilling that were already underway, notably the Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF). New work would report via NSET structures. 

It was noted that it would be important to define the scope this SOF/ SOAG project and map out an achievable timeline. This would need to be agile, in line with NSET priorities.

Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) – (SOAG/22/03)

The SG lead for the Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) gave a short presentation to SOAG attendees. This provided an overview of ESIF, including the background and rationale for the project. It also outlined the ESIF vision to develop a robust evidence base that can help improve understanding of the return on investment in post-school education and skills. The analysis completed under ESIF has significantly enhanced our knowledge of the economic and social returns to post-school education and training but should be seen as a contribution to our understanding, not a full economic or social assessment.

It was noted that the primary analysis of the project which has run for the last three years was now largely complete and that next steps were largely to finalise the reporting outputs that would communicate the findings. 

The Group briefly discussed the options for the future of ESIF and shared agency priorities on research. As part of finalising the current ESIF work there may be a need to consider future shared research and evaluation activity which SFC and SDS may conduct - this may spin out from current ESIF activity but address different priorities and evidence gaps.

It was agreed that the SG, SDS and SFC leads will prioritise this work to finalise the current ESIF workstream and develop recommendations for any future activity.

Agenda items 5-7

In view of the time constraints, the Chair thanked participants and moved that the meeting would take the remaining agenda items in correspondence.

[In correspondence]

Preparation for the Ministerial bilateral meeting

The Secretariat asked for views on the proposed agenda for the forthcoming Ministerial bilateral meeting.

Preparation for the next SOAG

The Secretariat noted that all SROs would be asked to report by exception against the standard reporting templates (PSRs) with effect from June 2022 and that a deep dive on FA/ GA apprenticeships would take place. An update on SOAG/ NSET governance would also be provided.


Executive Summary of the Shared Outcomes Framework

The Secretariat provided an update on the intention to produce, at the request of the Public Audit Committee, an Executive Summary of the Shared Outcomes Framework and confirmed that a revised draft would be shared shortly with agencies for comment.

Date of next meeting

The next SOAG is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 15 June.


  • action (040522 – 1): SOAG Action Tracker to be updated with unique ID, RAG status and deadlines for the next meeting
  • action (040522 – 2): SFC and SDS to progress the outstanding ESIF action (“SOAG and ESIF Collaborative Working Group to liaise on ensuring appropriate governance embedded within their processes”, in advance of the next meeting of SOAG)
  • action (040522 – 3): SG, SDS and SFC leads to review the governance diagram and clarify the relationship of both SOAG and the projects on the Shared Outcomes Framework with NSET structures for consideration at the next meeting of SOAG
  • action (040522 – 4): SG to provide clarity on timescales for submission of completed templates and to work with SDS and SFC to finalise the proposed summary dashboard ahead of next SOAG meeting
  • action (040522 – 5): SG, SFC and SDS to develop a proposition setting out to progress vision, governance and accountability issues pertinent to addressing the red milestones on the apprenticeship projects in advance of the next SOAG meeting
  • action (040522 – 6): Deep dive on FA and GA to be taken at the next SOAG meeting to include the governance and accountability points
  • action (040522 – 7): SDS and SFC to meet in advance of the next SOAG to discuss the Regional Pathfinder
  • action (040522 – 8): SG to provide comments to work package 2 paper by 9 May. SFC to review and agree date to come back with comments to allow for sign off ahead of the next SOAG
  • action (040522 – 9): SDS and SFC to discuss CESAP bilaterally in advance of next SOAG
  • action (040522 – 10: SG, SDS and SFC SOAG leads will discuss planning and structure of deep dives for future meetings
  • action (040522 – 11): ESIF, SG, SDS and SFC leads will finalise reporting outputs as part of the current ESIF workstream and consider further work to develop recommendations for a future shared research programme
  • action (040522 – 12): SG to send a commissioning email requesting that PSR templates are completed ahead of the next SOAG meeting
  • action (040522 – 13): SG to send revised draft version of the SOF Executive Summary to SDS and SFC for feedback in the week beginning 9 May 2022


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