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.

Purpose and scope


The purpose of the Review is to make recommendations on:

  1. how the skills delivery public body and advisory landscape could be adapted to drive forward the objectives and outcomes of NSET and the Scottish Government’s response to the SFC Review. In particular, to ensure that Scotland’s workforce can support our just transition to net zero and that all learners have the opportunities to develop the skills they need to equip them for rewarding careers by: enabling further embedding of careers guidance, work-based learning pathways and apprenticeships within the senior phase and wider post-school education system; optimising the system for upskilling and reskilling; and enhancing the role of industry and government priorities in projecting and articulating anticipated future skills requirements and informing and shaping provision; and
  2. on the basis of these considerations, the specific future functions remit and status of Skills Development Scotland (SDS) within the wider public body landscape.


The Review should have specific regard to the role and functions of SDS in the context of other agencies, in particular the SFC, the enterprise agencies, and the new education and qualifications bodies. As such, while the focus of the Review is on the functional areas set out below, most of which are currently undertaken by SDS, the recommendations may relate to the skills responsibilities of other public bodies and advisory groups.

It should take account of, and not seek to duplicate, wider reform recommendations and review work that is underway including the outcomes of the Muir Report, those arising from the Hayward Review, which is also due to report in March 2023, and the steps we have previously set out for taking forward the recommendations of the SFC Review and the Careers Review.

The purpose of the Review is not to report on the performance to date of SDS or other skills delivery bodies. However, it should take account of their Strategic Plans and associated performance frameworks, and work undertaken by SDS and the SFC in relation to organisational effectiveness and transformation.

The Review should make specific recommendations with regard to agency and advisory body roles with respect to:

  • the governance and operation of Scotland’s apprenticeship programmes including the funding and contracting of apprenticeships
  • the design, development and approval of apprenticeship frameworks including the role and status of the Apprenticeship Approvals Group (AAG)
  • the development and management of National Occupational Standards (NOS) and the commissioning of Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs)
  • the contracting and quality assurance of skills provision through independent training providers, particularly to support upskilling and retraining
  • sector and regional skills planning including producing and communicating labour market research and insights and measuring whether planning leads to improved alignment and better outcomes;
  • how to work with the proposed Careers Coalition to embed itself as part of the skills system and enable the recommendations of the Careers Review to be taken forward to ensure the provision and quality assurance of careers advice, information and guidance
  • support for young people, including those from marginalised groups, to develop their skills and experience to prepare them for the world of work and ensure that every young person has the option of a positive post-school destination
  • support for employers and industry with workforce planning and talent attraction and retention for their future skills needs
  • supporting employers to shape, inform, encourage and invest in skills and education provision, including the role and status of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board (SAAB) and the employer-led Developing the Young Workforce regional groups to best enable them to continue their roles as part of the skills system

Although the Review is not being driven by a pursuit of cost efficiencies, its recommendations should align with those priorities set out in the Resource Spending Review (RSR), published on 31 May, and should not present options which will be more costly for the public purse or diminish the service to those people and organisations in whose interests the body exists in the first place. In this context, the recommendations should seek to reduce duplication or unnecessary complexity within the skills delivery landscape.

The RSR sets out an expectation that public bodies in Scotland will deliver recurring annual efficiencies of at least 3%, asks public bodies to demonstrate that they remain fit for purpose against the present and future needs of Scotland’s people, places and communities (place based and person centred) and notes that wider reform of the public bodies landscape in Scotland is inevitable.

Based on the recommendations for adapting the skills delivery landscape, the Review should also report on how SDS’s status and governance arrangements could be strengthened to enhance public assurance, value and alignment, facilitate collaboration and support delivery. It may also seek to make recommendations on the capacity and resources SDS would require to carry out its functions to support effective delivery of our priorities and outcomes.  Finally, it should assess whether there are opportunities from SDS functions, either current or proposed, to support increased income generation.


Skills delivery landscape independent review


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