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.


What is the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland?

Scotland's rural economy contributes significantly to providing employment for people and to the national economic output. Rural areas face particular skills challenges, including skills shortages, talent retention and attraction, and demographic challenges. In response, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Government launched the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland: 2019-2021 in June 2019.

This plan sets out the strategic, partnership approach to support skills needs in rural Scotland, addressing the challenges through enhanced work-based learning pathways and by increasing access to education and skills provision in rural areas. It was intended to bring together a range of actions that would meet the current and future skills required for jobs in rural areas.

What is the report about?

This report presents the main findings of an independent process evaluation of the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland: 2019-2021. It considers how effective its Implementation Steering Group 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 contributed to additional activity and investment.

What did we do?

The study comprised a literature review and 30 in-depth interviews with Implementation Steering Group members and a group of wider stakeholders representing organisations involved in activities contained within the plan.

What did we learn?

Skills Development Scotland, in particular the Skills Planning Manager for the Rural Economy, played a key role in overseeing activity. The Implementation Steering Group have proved effective in driving activity forward and adding value in four key areas: raising the profile of region-specific and sector-specific skills issues in rural Scotland; increasing understanding of the challenges and potential solutions in other sectors or regions; generating new opportunities or solutions through collaboration; and raising awareness of supporting communications activities.

Considerable progress has been made across all five priority areas. As a result of the cross-sector coordination central to the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland, activities including insights into skills shortages, skills interventions, skills support and promotional activity are now better aligned to skills needs in the rural economy. Some expected activities have, however, not occurred as planned, and this was predominantly due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Next Steps

The findings from this evaluation will be used to inform options on the future of the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland.



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