Skills delivery independent review: terms of reference

Proposed terms for the independent review of the skills delivery landscape, focusing chiefly on the functions and remit of Skills Development Scotland.


This document sets out the proposed terms for the independent review of the skills delivery landscape in Scotland, focusing chiefly on the functions and remit of Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and its interface with – and role within – the wider skills system.

Skills Development Scotland was established as an executive non-departmental public body and company limited by guarantee in 2008 from a merger between a number of former careers and training organisations and the skills functions of the enterprise agencies. For the past 14 years it has taken the lead in skills and workforce planning delivery, the development and delivery of Scotland’s apprenticeship system and Scotland’s National Career Service.

Since SDS’s conception, however, the strategic context has moved on significantly. There is an increasing recognition of the need to more systematically embed technical, professional and work-based learning pathways within the education and skills system to ensure that provision meets the needs of different learners and employers and serves the economy and wider society, now and in the future.

This changing backdrop has also led to shifts in the delivery responsibilities of our public bodies with SDS increasingly needing to collaborate on skills planning, work-based learning and training programme delivery, including careers services and apprenticeships, with the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the non-departmental public body responsible for funding Scotland’s colleges and universities, and with other agencies and institutions in the wider skills and education ecosystem.

SFC’s Review of Coherence and Sustainability, published in June 2021, set out proposals for the future of tertiary education and the wider post-school system. It outlined how the SFC would take forward priority areas to deliver its vision of coherent provision including a regional approach to skills planning and more shorter, industry-facing courses to support learning throughout life. In our response, SG committed to develop a clear purpose and set of principles for post-school education, research and skills. This will be evidence-led, building on the outcomes of other reports and independent reviews. The Purpose and Principles will provide clear direction to support decision-making across the ecosystem to ensure that it is fit for the future and able to meet the outcomes of our National Performance Framework and the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET).

The NSET, published 1 March 2022, aims to ensure that people have the skills they need at every stage of life to have rewarding careers, that skills provision meets the demands of an ever-changing economy and society, and that employers invest in the skills they need to grow their businesses. Key priority projects will adapt the education and skills system to make it more agile and responsive to our economic needs and ambitions; support and incentivise people and their employers, to invest in skills and training throughout their working lives; and expand Scotland’s available talent pool, at all skills levels, to give employers the skills pipeline they need to take advantage of opportunities.

The NSET and the Scottish Government’s response to the SFC Review set a clear ambition for a post-16 education and skills system that will deliver on our national outcomes and enable us to meet our future economic challenges; specifying that this should be simple, people-focused and built on effective collaboration across agencies and other partners. In this context, there is a need to ensure the public body and advisory group delivery landscape is also optimised to deliver those ambitions. This includes having the right structure, governance, responsibilities and balance of resources across the public body landscape to ensure we are delivering best value for public spending and are focused on the outcomes we want to achieve.

Work is already underway to improve the school education landscape in Scotland including implementation of the OECD recommendations on the Curriculum for Excellence, a national discussion on a vision for school education, the creation of three new education bodies, and the independent review of qualifications and assessment. Alongside this, the development of the purpose and principles for post-school education and skills development, the SDS-led review of careers services in Scotland, and this independent review of skills delivery landscape will ensure that we are taking a holistic approach to education and skills reform and improvement.


Skills delivery landscape independent review


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