Skills: Shared Outcomes Assurance Group minutes: 03 October 2023

Minutes from the meeting held on 03 October 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Government (SG)

  • Stephen Pathirana, Director, Lifelong Learning and Skills (LLS) (Chair)
  • Kirstie Corbett, Unit Head, Senior Principal Researcher, (ALSA)
  • Kamran Durrani – Head of Unit for National Skills Planning
  • Elspeth Hough, Head of Skills Strategy Unit
  • Daniel Macdougall – Team Leader, Green Skills

Skills Development Scotland (SDS)

  • Chris Brodie, Director of Regional Skills Planning and Sector Development
  • Andrea Glass, Head of Regions and Enabling Sectors
  • Lynne Robson, Head of Evidence and Impact
  • Graeme Hendry, Senior Partnership and Delivery Manager

Scottish Funding Council (SFC)

  • Sharon Drysdale, Deputy Director, Work Based Learning
  • Liz Shevlin, Deputy Director, Coherent Learning Provision

Scottish Government Secretariat:

  • Linda McCourt, Programmes Unit (LLS)
  • Tanya Friel, Programmes Unit (LLS)


  • Neville Prentice, Senior Director, Service Development and Delivery, SFC
  • Richard Dryburgh, Team Lead, Skills Delivery (LLS)
  • Jane Duffy, Head of Apprenticeships and Lifetime Skills (LLS)
  • Diane Greenlees, Director, Critical Skills and Occupations, SDS

Items and actions

Welcome and review of actions

The Chair welcomed attendees to the meeting and noted apologies.

There were two actions outstanding on the SOAG Action Tracker: an action to confirm the date of the next SOAG meeting, which is provisionally 23 January 2024 and an action relating to the Collaborative Working Group (CWG). Both of these actions were rated green (on track) with the CWG marked as an on-going action. The action relating to the date of the next SOAG meeting will be rated blue and closed after this meeting.

Progress reporting: updates by exception

The meeting heard updates on the following projects, with reference to the Project Status Reports (PSR) which had been submitted prior to the meeting.

Foundation Apprenticeships: (SOAG/22/01) and Graduate Apprenticeships (SOAG/22/02)   

While both Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships continued to be rated as amber (potential risk) subject to decisions about the future policy direction, recruitment was progressing well for both SDS and SFC allocations and they are confident of meeting their target allocations.

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

Work package 2 has now moved into the final stages of work. Both the Shetland and Glasgow workshops had taken place with additional co-design workshops (action 6) being planned and write ups due at the end of the year. A monitoring and evaluation framework (action 7) for WP2 will now be developed by SDS inhouse expertise and will form part of the final report.

Substantive item: CESAP Work Package 1 Report

Chris Brodie gave a short presentation on the CESAP Work Package 1 final report which aimed to develop a picture of current and planned skills requirements for the transition to net zero and understand the quality and breadth of the skills evidence available.

A summary of stakeholder engagement and timelines for WP 1 and 2 was highlighted. It was also noted that the report was a collective effort, made possible by the collaboration which had taken place between SDS; SFC; SG and key stakeholders. The presentation then focused on the key messages from the report, broken down into three pillars; investment; demand and provision, before setting out a number of opportunities for all to consider.

In discussion, the following points were raised:

  • The report found that the three pillars of investment; demand and provision identified were important from a strategic perspective and offered a good structure for interacting more generally with education and skills provision
  • It had been difficult to map employer investment in skills although the employer skills survey was a useful tool for this
  • It was important to distinguish between upskilling and reskilling. The ‘green jobs’ definition’ can be used to help aid our understanding of the types of jobs required and understand demand. It had been difficult to map provision for upskilling and reskilling for the report and there was also a need to understand not only where new opportunities would arise but how the transition from the existing economic model would be managed
  • Looking ahead at future investment, it may be necessary to define and prioritise the critical areas of the transition to net zero to ensure the required targets would be met
  • While there remained some gaps in the data including on college leaver destinations, there is strong evidence on where significant blocks exist, which may impact the delivery of government ambitions
  • Assessment of the quality of teaching in green sectors had not been in scope for the report. Some of the findings had been tested with Colleges Scotland and Universities Scotland and this presented an opportunity to reflect on whether colleges and universities were doing the right things
  • The upskilling of the college and university workforce to deliver the quality of skills needed  was already underway. However, there remained some uncertainty in the system about the focus of priorities
  • It was noted that there would also be the need to consider how to meet the new demands of the labour market as it evolves. Changes in technology such as Artificial Intelligence may allow for changing jobs opportunities and free up parts of the workforce in future

It was planned that the report and accompanying materials for publication would be submitted to Ministers prior to early publication. Partners would also consider how the findings from the report would feed into the CESAP update planned for later in 2023. SOAG expressed its thanks to Chris Brodie,  Lynne Robson and the team at SDS as well as partners including in the SFC for their commitment to this report.

Verbal update from regional tertiary pathfinders

Liz Shevlin gave a short verbal update on the Regional Tertiary Pathfinders. This work was considering how provision is developed and the ways in which colleges and universities engage with regional economic partnerships, public sector led skills partnerships and national and regional skills bodies.

In designing their curriculum offer universities and colleges play an important and complex systems role responding to national policy, regional priorities, sectoral requirements, learner demand and needs and community/place based needs. The complex demands and competing priorities should be acknowledged and better understood in discussions about the ‘responsiveness’ of institutions to employer demands, particularly in view of current  financial pressures. Working through this complexity, Regional Pathfinders have provided the opportunity to explore how institutions  work collaboratively on the development of responsive coherent provision, and the seven pilot projects underway, delivering new provision in line with regional need.

It is a key role of institutions across Scotland to ensure they are responsive to the needs of the region as they develop new curriculum and pathways.  SFC is taking a ‘learning by doing’ approach with the pathfinder education partners to understand the process involved via a collaborative approach to development.

Liz confirmed that a system level report summarising the learning outputs from the 7 pilot projects and three thematic reports on data, evidence and intelligence; learners’ pathways and curriculum planning would be produced.

A number of learning events will also take place which will enable institutions to learn from approaches taken from other parts of the system and create more joined-up planning and provision.

In discussion the following points were raised:

  • It was noted that pressures can look  different for different institutions. There may be a need to consider what the key drivers are in relation to these pressures and how to respond accordingly
  • There was a need to start building data and evidence on the needs of institutions and build assurance relating to how they make decisions on provision
  •  There had been good examples of colleges adapting priorities and provision and responding to dynamic change as a result of Covid-19
  • It was important to recognise competing drivers in the design of the curriculum offer

Any other business

As good progress continued to be made on completing projects of the Shared Outcomes Framework, it was envisaged that the governance of the remaining work would migrate into NSET structures. This would be explored in the coming months.

The provisional date for the next SOAG meeting is the 23 January 2024.

The Chair thanked the group for a productive meeting and reminded the meeting of the procedures to be taken under GDPR were any participants to object to the inclusion of their information in the SOAG minutes which to be published on SG website.

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