Strategic Labour Market Group: meeting papers June 2018

Minutes and supporting papers from the fifth meeting of Strategic Labour Market Group, held on 12 June 2018.

Attendees and apologies

Members / attendees present

  • Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Employability and Training (Chair)
  • Lynne Cadenhead  
  • Amanda Jones
  • Professor Ewart Keep
  • Jamie Kerr
  • Elma Murray
  • Gary Sharp
  • Francis Stewart
  • David Watt
  • Hugh McAloon, Fair Work and Skills
  • Nikolai Maslak, Skilled and Productive Workforce, Scottish Government


  • Martin Reid, Promoting Fair Work, Scottish Government
  • Christine Hamilton-Rice, Promoting Fair Work, Scottish Government
  • Sarah Hart, Promoting Fair Work, Scottish Government


  • Michelle Armour
  • Dr Gina Netto
  • Lucy O’Carroll
  • Peter Hunter
  • Prof Graeme Roy
  • Grahame Smith
  • Stephen Boyle
  • Dr Jim McCormick 
  • Mark Smith
  • Hamish Watson
  • Dominic Munro, Fair Work, Employability and Skills, Scottish Government  

Items and actions

Agenda item 1: Welcome and introduction

The Minister welcomed everyone to the fifth meeting of the Strategic Labour Market Group (SLMG), focused on upskilling and reskilling, and noted apologies.

Agenda item 2: Minutes of the previous meeting

The minutes of the last meeting were agreed with no amendments.

Members were reminded that they had received an economic summary paper as part of the meeting pack. The Minister noted that there were no representatives from the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser (OCEA) due to the publication of labour market statistics that day which required analysis. He advised that the figures in the economic summary were therefore not the latest figures and outlined the latest headline statistics. 

Members raised the following points:

  • in relation to the proportion of workers on zero hours contracts (ZHCs) who may want more job security, it was suggested that the Scottish Government consider how it can join up with the Fair Work Convention more, particularly to help employers think harder on what fair work looks like. The Minister advised that the Convention operates their own agenda, but suggestions could potentially be fed into the work of group
  • it was recognised that the lack of ZHCs could increase unemployment, and that greater control of welfare and benefits may help

Agenda item 3: General update

The Minister invited Martin Reid to give an exceptions based report on the Work Plan. Martin Reid advised members that the Labour Market Measurement Framework was not developed as anticipated for this meeting, highlighting that this would be covered further under agenda item 4. He informed the group that their comments on employment powers, which had been the focus of the previous SLMG meeting, had been incorporated into the paper which was undergoing the clearance process before publication. Officials will ensure a joined up approach with migration policy, on which Scottish Government had published a paper in February.

Mr Hepburn sought views on engagement between meetings, encouraging members to raise issues and suggesting that certain areas of work taken forward by the Scottish Government may benefit from the input of SLMG if a member was willing to take a lead on it. The Group were receptive, suggesting Huddle or What’s App to facilitate collaboration. In the first instance, an informal discussion on how to address the tone around immigration as being a negative, to a focus on the workforce and work permits was suggested.

Members were reminded that the Scottish Government intends to publish past papers in line with the Minister’s commitment to the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee to operate transparently. 

Action points: 

  • Secretariat to liaise with secretariat of the Women and Work Group about setting up Huddle
  • Secretariat to facilitate informal discussion on changing the focus around immigration
  • Secretariat to share past minutes with the Group and members to check their presentation before publication
  • Secretariat to provide each member with a copy of the employment powers paper when published  

Agenda item 4: Labour market strategy measurement workstream

The Minister noted the paper was helpful to understand progress and data sets associated with labour market measurement. He invited Martin Reid to provide background to work currently underway. 

The Group were advised that measurement framework had been delayed to tie in with the review of the National Performance Framework (NPF). He drew attention to the extended list of relevant indicators reflected in the NPF, advising this would inform the development of a dashboard for the next meeting.

In discussion, the Group raised the following points:

  • members raised a number of measures or statistical data for inclusion or consideration:
          • gender disaggregated data to be both gathered and published
          • demography and age-related measures
          • sectoral measures to identify labour shortages
          • data on Tier-2 cap breaches to measure impacts
  • The Economic and Social Research Council’s Cohort Study was highlighted as something that would become a useful tool in a few years. It covers around 80,000 households providing data on the whole family, but links are beginning to be made with ONS performance data of associated employers  
  • the Group were advised that the Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS) has been discontinued and will be replaced by the UK Wide Management Practice Survey
  • some members felt that the NPF was updated but not scrutinised on a regular basis, and an annual debate in the Scottish Parliament was suggested
  • it was suggested that there was a real change in what employers were looking and that it might be worth researching job descriptions/adverts, particularly around ZHCS. A group, linked to the work of the fair Work convention, should be considered looking into data about workers’ pay?

Action points: 

  • Secretariat to update on the Older People in Employment Action Plan and share with the group when available.
  • Secretariat to circulate the Labour Market Measurement Framework before the next meeting and as soon as possible to support engagement

Agenda item 5: Upskilling and reskilling

The Minister introduced this item reflecting on the strengths and performance of our skills system. Recognising that much has been done by the Scottish Government to support the younger cohort, he asked the group to consider how we can support those already in the labour market to acquire skills. He invited Hugh McAloon to give an overview of the paper who made the following points:

  • The Scottish Government is in the early stages of our thinking around our workforce skills strategy
  • large scale shifts that will impact the labour market and cause labour shortages, such as Brexit, technological change, changing patterns in migration, all presenting opportunities and challenges
  • though this is a future issue, it affects the skills system now and there is a need for a strategic realignment of skills and workforce policy
  • disruptions in the labour market were reflected on, particularly the current example of the North Sea workforce, which demonstrates people are seeking to upskill rather than undertake long term training
  • The Scottish Government’s current support of workforce skills was outlined;  Flexible Workforce Development Fund, Scottish Union Learning, Individual Training Accounts, and Transition Training Fund 
  • a number of questions were posed around further development of the workforce skills system

In discussion, members raised the following points:

  • it was felt that there is a need to think longer term with regards to skills, but recognise that Brexit presents a more immediate challenge, especially since access to skills from other countries has been ‘turned off’ by revisions to salary requirements in migration system since December
  • it was noted that some sectors could have predicted skills shortages and that employers have not invested in training where there has been a downturn. Members felt sectors need to take more responsibility for upskilling and reskilling
  • Sector Skills Investment Plans were regarded as a lever available to the Scottish Government which would require a clear steer around the future workforce, particularly existing workers, as they are currently too focused on new entrants
  • Private Sector was regarded as needing to be more analytical in forecasting skills needs rather than headhunting out-with the UK. It was noted that the Migration Advisory Committee state they have strict policies to counteract this problem and encourage training
  • the group recognised that Scotland had a good higher education system, but that funding was skewed towards young people. It was suggested that we should consider what could be done differently, perhaps using funding as a lever to encourage universities to think about modifying provision toward older workers. The demographic downturn and fewer young people provides a case for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to diversify. It was noted that part-time degrees or bite-size learning would require redevelopment of staff provision
  • training was considered to be more concentrated on certain groups of the workforce, such as those in higher grades. It was suggested support could be provided to firms to train those delivering training in the workplace for better on-the-job learning
  • the devolution of adult education to Greater London was highlighted as something to monitor around how they leverage in additional money for adult skills and training in the context of radical budget cuts. Former co-funding models were also highlighted
  • with regards to self-employment, training on how to become self-employed was considered lacking and it was felt should be a more ‘normal’ option for leaving school and university. Additionally, those who are self-employed struggle to get training due to an inability to access reasonable prices, inability deduct the business costs, and loss of earnings. A publication on changes to training costs and legislation “Free Radicals” was highlighted
  • the group wondered how much research there was, or was being conducted, seeking young people’s views on how they want to work in the future rather than focusing on employers. Year of the Young Person was considered an opportunity to conduct such surveys with DYW work, supported by Young Scot, identified as a mechanism to achieve this. UWS-Oxfam Partnership report on ‘What Scotland's future workforce think about 'Decent Work' was highlighted as a starting point
  • the value of HNC and HND level qualifications was highlighted, set against the perceived necessity for degree level qualifications. It was suggested that these needed to be promoted more, shifting the emphasis away from university education and more to colleges
  • focusing on the lack of agility in some businesses and sectors, it was noted businesses could address skills shortages by simply increasing salaries or, in some sectors, by moving to different shift models to attract workers with families. Drawing on the Family Friendly Flexible Working Project, it was recognised that demand for flexible working outstrips availability. There was consensus that employers do not necessarily understand what flexible or agile working means from an individual perspective
  • issues with the Apprenticeship Levy were highlighted, such as employers not reclaiming monies or public bodies being discouraged from using it. It was noted that tax credits are not universally claimed either
  • members recognised that employers do invest in training as they don’t expect entrants to be fully ready for jobs, but that more upskilling was required as roles developed, diversified or disappeared
  • digital nomads were highlighted by the groups as a working style that more and more young entrepreneurs are adopting – working from various locations across the globe. It was suggested that Edinburgh was an example where this was already supported
  • sales training was highlighted as a life skill that isn’t supported enough and should be supported in schools, especially since interpersonal skills will be the most in demand with the increase in AI
  • research into the ‘trust economy’ was highlighted as a concept that could be considered more
  • it was felt that underperformance in productivity could be attributed to management skills and lack of strategic leadership on Boards. Additional factors affecting productivity were noted as predominantly desk-based work, mental health and happiness levels at work

Action points: 

  • Secretariat to provide Minister with copy of “Free Radicals” report
  • Scottish Government to consider how/if to more strongly promote the value of FE with a view to shifting employer attitudes toward degree level qualifications
  • consider support for Digital Nomads to encourage young entrepreneurs
  • consider the need to support sales training as a core skill for all workers (in school/colleges/universities)
  • look into what can be done to promote skills for becoming self-employed
  • review research (or need for research) into what is being done to understand what young people want to do in terms of work and how they want to operate
  • consider if there is anything that can be done around Year of the Young Person (perhaps to support previous point)
  • consider the accessibility of FE/HE for older workers (view was that many universities in particular were closing or reducing this provision)
  • Scottish Government to review discussion with Skilled and Productive Workforce Unit

Agenda item 6: AoB

There were no items of AoB. The Group were asked about a topic for the next meeting, Automation having been suggested. However, the consensus seemed to be around a discussion on developments around the Migration Advisory Committee, with Automation postponed until a later date.

State of the labour market presentation - June 2018

Labour Market Strategy Measurement Workstream paper - June 2018

Upskilling and reskilling - discussion paper




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