Rural Scotland - skills action plan: process evaluation 2019 to 2021

Main findings of an independent process evaluation of the skills action plan for Rural Scotland from 2019 to 2021.

Chapter 7: Conclusions

This final chapter considers the key learnings from this evaluation of the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland: 2019-2021. Drawing on evidence from earlier chapters, it highlights what has worked well and what has worked less well, and explores the implications for the future of the plan.

This report has presented the main findings of an independent process evaluation of the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland (SAPRS). It has considered:

  • How effective its Implementation Steering Group (ISG) has been at driving actions;
  • The extent to which the plan has delivered on its five priority areas, and;
  • Whether the creation of the plan has contributed to additional activity and investment.

Overall, this evaluation has demonstrated that the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland has brought together a range of activities to meet current skills needs in rural Scotland, although the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the speed of progress.

Aspects which have worked well include a number of new or evolving activities that have supported the skills system in rural areas. The SAPRS has contributed to a more coordinated and strategic approach for these activities, in terms of design, implementation and promotion. It has therefore ensured that skills intelligence, skills provision, careers guidance and promotional work contain a stronger emphasis on skills needs in rural Scotland. In particular this activity has helped organisations respond in a more targeted and effective way to the skills challenges caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Implementation Steering Group (ISG) has been a critical factor in driving the SAPRS forwards. Bringing skills in rural Scotland together under a single 'umbrella' has provided the ability to promote more localised or sector-focused skills concerns, facilitated both shared learning and collaboration, and encouraged promotional activities. The funded role of the Skills Planning Manager for the Rural Economy at Skills Development Scotland has been key here.

Aspects of the plan that have worked less well include:

  • While the intention of the plan was not to fund new skills interventions, there is little evidence that it has contributed to additional funding. However, there is evidence that the SAPRS has contributed to the reallocation of planned activity or financing, such as the use of the National Transition Training Fund to support rural skills activities.
  • The pace of progress on certain aspects has been slower than expected, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • Adapting in a more strategic fashion to evolving rural skills needs, such as those associated with the climate crisis.

The evidence from this evaluation suggests that the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland: 2019-2021 has been valuable in bringing together a range of actions to meet current and future skills needs in rural Scotland. The plan will need to evolve to continue being fit for purpose. This includes widening the types of skills it covers, focusing support and activities on particular demographics, and aligning more closely to other Scottish Government strategies. This evaluation has established an important baseline in terms of what the SAPRS has delivered. In any future version of the Plan, it will be important to capture the full impact of its activities.



Back to top