Enterprise and Skills Board: strategic plan

This full plan provides clarity around strategic direction to enterprise and skills agencies and a blueprint to Government to turn up the dial on productivity and drive inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Chair's Foreword

The Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board exists to improve the enterprise and skills system in Scotland. This Strategic Plan provides clarity around strategic direction to our agencies and a blueprint to Government to turn up the dial on productivity and drive inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

To build a picture of what Scotland needs from its enterprise and skills system, the starting point for the Board was to look at Scotland's assets, examine the current and future needs of business and learners, consider the plans and policies already in place through Government and look at where other partners - local authorities, public and private sector organisations, social enterprises and others - are already delivering great work.

This Strategic Plan is not just about looking at new areas or initiatives. It is also about doing what we do better - with business and learners at the heart - to create a system which is simpler and easier to navigate. The approach has been to look at how public and private sector partners, local, regional and national, can provide place-centric, industry-focused assistance that will drive inclusive growth.

The goal has to be greater collaboration not just between the enterprise and skills agencies themselves, but right across the system. The Board has made some recommendations around how we can collectively strengthen outputs and outcomes with partners, while retaining clear roles and responsibilities about delivery.

The focus is on productivity, but also equality, wellbeing and sustainability. The Board has considered how programmes and activities can be delivered more cohesively to make Scottish companies more resilient in the face of a changing global landscape: how they can scale up, grow and globalise and prepare for future opportunities such as automation and digitalisation, and challenges such as climate change.

Profound demographic change will alter the character of the country and the nature of the economy. In 25 years, there will be around a quarter of a million more Scots, but there will be far fewer people of traditional working age and a drop in the numbers who would typically be in school, apprenticeship, college and university. We will need and buy different types of goods and services, and in turn that will affect the demand for and supply of workers.

The Board has considered how our colleges, universities and training providers can ensure that our skills provision is even more agile, responsive and flexible, and better matches the needs of both industry and learners, now and in the future, acknowledging this changing demographic.

The customer will be at the centre. Advice will be easier to access. A main online entry portal will be in place in 2019 to signpost business to where support can be best sourced across the system. Information and help will be delivered more cohesively through the establishment of 'agency-fluid teams' with bespoke support drawn from across the agencies, and able to act more responsively and proactively to help companies reach their potential, regardless of where they are based in Scotland.

The agencies have already begun to align their activities, coordinating how and when they plan, allowing them to spot opportunities for collaboration and to remove overlaps. The Board and agencies will measure progress towards more effective collaboration.

The Strategic Plan goes beyond securing alignment and greater collaboration among the agencies. Over the summer, the Board examined evidence around a number of areas with the potential to drive economic growth. As a result, four initial, interconnected 'missions' were pursued: deep dives into themes that, supported by detailed evidence presented by the newly established Analytical Unit, demonstrated that, by concentrating efforts in these areas, a positive shift in productivity can be achieved.

The Board has developed actions and recommendations around the four missions, covering Business Models and Workplace Innovation; Future Skills; Business Creation and Growth; and Exporting. Improving productivity and growth were central considerations but other economic and social objectives around business, citizens and society were equally critical.

For instance, we know that technology, Brexit and automation are disrupting traditional business models and working environments. To respond to these challenges, there needs to be increased resilience at workforce, sectoral and economy level.

The Board reviewed compelling evidence that those investing in high performance workplace practices show productivity premiums of up to 30%, yet these approaches are not common across most Scottish businesses and organisations. There is a clear need to create interventions that improve management quality and leadership skills.

The widespread adoption of innovative business models and best practice in the workplace will increase resilience by creating a business culture in Scotland that is open to change, agile, and focused on continuous improvement. More importantly, developing more entrepreneurial and ambitious leadership will create more diverse and socially inclusive workplaces which deliver on Fair Work, increased employee engagement, better paid jobs, and improve the overall performance of Scottish workplaces.

The identified action for the agencies is to deliver an 'Innovating Workplaces' campaign to promote and deliver more progressive business models and innovation for all sizes of enterprise at whatever stage of growth. This action will include increased Fair Work conditionality for business support.

Other key outputs include:

  • Developing a suite of programmes designed to focus on the potential of mid-sized companies to scale up and internationalise, alongside private partners such as Can Do Scale and other private sector groups/bodies.
  • Embedding a culture of lifelong learning at all stages of an individual's career, including a stronger emphasis on work-based learning, to enable Scotland to better respond to the current and future skills needs of industry and learners. This includes a recommendation to Government to re-design and expand interventions in this area such as the Individual Training Account and the Flexible Workforce Development Fund.
  • Helping companies to export through a 'national exporting service' - a one Scotland approach to export delivery organisations and services, strengthening national and regional partnerships and enhanced digital support services to engage more companies and address knowledge barriers to exporting, including sales skills.
  • Ensuring that we have a demand led skills system that is flexible and highly responsive to industry and learner needs. This must be underpinned by robust evidence on employer demand, predictive analytics on future skills needs and access to lifelong careers advice that addresses the future realities of constant change, ever evolving occupations and the critical requirement for lifelong learning. From primary schools, through secondary schools, in colleges, universities and within the workplace, pupils, learners, employees and those seeking work should be able to access high quality, well informed, independent careers advice on demand.

Supporting all of that is a focus on the potential of digitalisation and new technologies, including those that support the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. Digital literacy has to be embedded in enterprise and education across Scotland. The Board and agencies will make use of new data sources and predictive analytics to improve our own understanding, as well as to encourage greater uptake of digital skills and technologies

The Strategic Plan is a plan for the longer term, with a 20-year horizon, but given the fluidity of geopolitical and economic circumstances, it will be updated regularly to ensure it is fit-for-purpose and able to flex in response to ever changing global conditions.

This is a time for our businesses and learners to co-invest in the system. In particular, the business community cannot sit on the sidelines, but must engage to ensure the relevance and effectiveness of the interventions delivered by the agencies

It goes without saying that I am grateful to all those who have already engaged with this work and provided input. Members of the Board have spoken to a great many people over recent months, and the views received have proved valuable in helping shape our thoughts. A key strength of the Board is its ability to pull together a 'coalition of the willing' across traditional partisan lines, allowing us to shine light on the big social and economic challenges we all face, and to develop creative solutions to address them.

Success will, of course, be shown through the outcomes that we now deliver. However, the process of developing this Plan, and the value of the challenging discussions between the collective of Board Members and the agencies has, in itself, been a catalyst for change. A culture of collaboration, support and open dialogue has been clearly developing. I am certain that this will lead to transformational change in the way the agencies approach the design of interventions, their engagement with industry, and the way they work together.

It is not the Board that sets policy, it is the Government. It is not the Board that 'does', it is the agencies. Shifting the dial on productivity and inclusive growth will require everybody stepping forward and continuing to play their part, with clarity of purpose and role. The prize is significant, achievable and important - and we must be ambitious as we reach out and work with others to claim it.

Nora Senior, Strategic Board Chairman

Nora Senior
Strategic Board Chairman



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