Skills Committee Newsletter No.2 (May 2010)
Welcome to the second edition of the Skills Committee newsletter in 2010. It has been a very busy start to the New Year and we have big challenges ahead of us to ensure Scotland's learning system plays a significant part in the economic recovery of our country.
Once again, this issue provides an overview of the main discussion and decision items that the Committee made at its last meeting on 11 February 2010 and news on wider skills issues and policies. As ever, you can contribute to future editions of the newsletter by emailing your news and items to the Committee Secretary, André Reibig (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I hope you find reading this edition of the newsletter useful!
Dr Janet Lowe CBE
Chair of the Skills Committee
Forthcoming Skills Committee meeting
Contact and further information
We have had sad news that on 16 February, Professor Mike Pittilo, Principal of Robert Gordon University (RGU) and member of our Skills Committee passed away at his home. The BBC has posted an article with a tribute from Professor Pittilo's colleague and acting Principal at RGU, Professor John Harper.
Professor Pittilo was known to many people at the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) not only in his capacity as a member of our Skills Committee but also through his work on Universities Scotland's Learning and Teaching Committee. Mark Batho (CEO) has offered formal condolences on behalf of SFC.
Towards Ambition 2020: Skills, Jobs, Growth for Scotland
The Committee considered the policy advice Skills, Jobs, Growth for Scotland by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) to the Scottish Government, which was published on the UKCES website on 11 February. Chris Humphries, Committee member and Chief Executive of UKCES presented the key recommendations and broad proposals put forward in this report. The Committee welcomed this advice and felt that the proposals should feed into the refresh of the Skills Strategy, which the Scottish Government is in the process of preparing. The Committee also felt particularly positive about steps towards aligning government priorities and employer demand with what individuals want from the skills system. The Skills Strategy refresh offers a real opportunity to join up economic and skills priorities, aligning funding streams and the offer to employers and is expected to be published before the summer 2010.
It was felt that Skills Development Scotland () has a key role to play in producing high quality Labour Market Information (LMI) to both learners and employers to enable informed choices and to raise demand for learning and skills. This includes advice and guidance on career and learning opportunities. Also, high quality LMI has the potential to inform the decisions made by individuals, inform industrial investment priorities and better match the supply of skills to emerging employment demand. Working together and with other key stakeholders, SFC and should ensure that LMI is collected and disseminated more effectively and that individuals are equipped with the skills to use information in a decision-making context.
In respect of the Commission's specific proposal on course labelling, the Scottish Government should consult students and sector representatives before developing more detailed proposals. It is essential that learners and employers will not be misinformed by the simplification of course information. It was noted that, under previous arrangements for the review of colleges by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (HMIe), gradings were published.
With regard to raising employer ambition and innovation, the Committee felt that the capacity of Scottish firms to be high growth, high skill businesses can only be realised through better leadership and management, underpinned by ambition and entrepreneurship. Employer networks and industry advisory boards must be utilised to achieve this - also our skills networks.
Joining up recession interventions: progress report
The Committee received a progress report on the work undertaken by and SFC in response to economic downturn that both organisations have devised respectively and in liaison with each other.
Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) funding continues to be very effective, and the Committee agreed that the executive should continue to promote the availability of this funding to support ongoing PACE activity. The Committee was also keen to see adequate resource allocated to PACE activity in 2010-11.
The Committee felt that pressures on student support budgets from increased demand and greater volatility of demand across the college sector, along with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefit reforms, mean that it is essential that student support funding continues to be optimised and adjusted to meet this demand. SFC and are currently considering what more can be done to help support further and higher education leavers in summer 2010, many of whom will struggle to find employment, and both organisations are committed to aligning activities and evidence effectively to ensure the best possible response to problems created by the economic downturn.
In relation to this and in addition to the funds allocated in a recent SFC circular: Economic downturn: additional funding for colleges for academic year 2010-11 (SFC/15/2010), the Main grants to colleges for academic year 2010-11 (SFC/14/2010) also announced the SFC's continued commitment to funding colleges in PACE related activities and a specific grant line of £1 million to assist rural colleges in helping small rural businesses deal with challenging economic circumstances.
In the formal offer of grant letter the Cabinet Secretary asked the SFC to "apply these resources in a way which mitigates the impact of the recession on the people of Scotland, giving priority to school leavers and to geographical areas where there is the greatest need". The Cabinet Secretary also asked SFC to "encourage colleges to support young people who seek a college place under the DWP Young Person's Guarantee scheme". This scheme targets specifically young people aged 18 to 24.
Sectors work: overview report and emerging approaches
The Committee, since its inception in 2005, has taken a sector approach to focus its advice on interventions. This has covered government key sectors and our interventions have focused on sectors where there is a market failure and opportunities for colleges and universities to make a difference. It considered progress made in Tourism, Construction, Financial Services, Energy, Textiles, Health and Social Care, Marine Engineering, ICT, Food & Drink Manufacturing, the Creative Industries and the Life Sciences. The Committee welcomed the emergence of various skills networks and specific projects in these sectors. Despite the fact that in most sectors it is too early to tell if the devised interventions are having the desired impact, many good relationships between employers, institutions and other public sector bodies are beginning to emerge. There is scope for sharing good practice across these different groupings and projects, and lessons that can be learnt from the work of the industry advisory boards that are beginning to emerge in some key sectors, such as Energy.
Government announces 4,000 more college places for 2010-11
An extra 4,100 new college places will be created in the most deprived areas of Scotland next year through a £15.3 million cash injection.
European Structural Funding of £6.9 million is being match-funded by £8.4 million from the SFC to target the pressures on colleges in the most socially deprived areas where demand for places has increased during the economic downturn.
Skills: Scotland's Opportunity Summit
The Scottish Government hosted a Skills Summit in Edinburgh on 27 April 2010, inviting key stakeholders to discuss the current and future priorities for skills in Scotland. Some 150 delegates, including colleges and universities, employers, Sector Skills Councils and public sector organisations listened to and discussed Government priorities for Scotland's future. The feedback will be used by the Scottish Government in their Skills Strategy refresh, which is expected to be published before the summer recess of the Scottish Parliament.
The Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, Keith Brown MSP, said "today's summit is about bringing those who can help create, support and safeguard jobs together to discuss the best way forward during the next year and beyond". "The Scottish Government's Skills Strategy and Economic Recovery Plan has been critical in supporting Scotland's emergence from recession, however, we still have a long way to go." Apart from refreshing the skills and learning priorities so Scotland emerges stronger from the recession, the refresh aims to tie economic and skills priorities more closely together, and achieve a simpler and more aligned skills system in the years ahead.
Skills utilisation e-bulletin
The fifth skills utilisation e-bulletin was published in February 2010. It reports on progress with the SFC-funded skills utilisation programme of projects and summarises the key findings of a number of case studies that SQW consulting have produced, which generally cover motivation; approaches evolving over time; success factors; and lessons learnt.
Sector Skills Assessments published
Following on from the publication of the Sector Skills LMI profiles that were produced for Scotland in December 2009, all Sector Skills Councils are now required to produce Sector Skills Assessments, which contextualise the information presented in the sectors profiles. These publications are based on the Scottish Employer Skills Survey of 2008. The next set of data is expected for late 2010 early 2011. Scottish Enterprise, the SDS, the SFC, the Scottish Government and the Sector Skills Councils are working closely together in order to improve sectoral and regional LMI, which was also raised as a priority by the stakeholders at the Skills Summit on 27 April in Edinburgh.
Scotland's Colleges - SDS Food & Drink Seminar
A joint strategic forum between Scotland's Colleges and was established in December 2009, a move which was strongly supported by the Minister for Schools and Skills, Keith Brown, MSP, who attended the first meeting. One of the important actions from that first meeting was for and the colleges to work closely on the skills challenges and opportunities relating to the priority sectors identified in the Government Economic Strategy (GES).
It was decided therefore to run a joint workshop on the GES sector of food and drink, which took place on 17 March 2010. At this workshop, senior staff from 18 of Scotland's 43 colleges, industry managers, representatives from the food and drink sector, and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) qualification manager exchanged good practice and explored the skills challenges and opportunities that exist for food and drink in Scotland.
The event was a good start to a series of six workshops representing each of the GES key sectors. A positive discussion took place and knowledge was shared from which several action-orientated issues for the different partners became apparent and will be taken forward via the strategic forum to the appropriate partners.
Forthcoming Skills Committee meeting
The next meeting of the Skills Committee will take place on Thursday 20 May. Papers will be available to download soon after that, and we'll issue the next edition of the newsletter in late June.
Contact and further information
We welcome contributions from colleges, universities and employers to our newsletter. Please contact Dr André Reibig, Secretary to the Skills Committee, Skills and Funding Policy Group, SFC, Tel: 0131 313 6595, email: email@example.com to make a contribution, request further information, or add your name to our newsletter distribution list.
Further information about the work of the Committee, and access to Committee papers, is available via the Skills Committee section of our website.