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Regional Pathfinders Pilot Projects

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SFC is working alongside key regional education and skills partners to support the seven innovative pilot projects now in development in two Pathfinder regions in Scotland.

Through evidence, analysis, and collaborative action, the Pathfinders are taking a ‘learning by doing’ approach to understand how we can make the education and skills system more responsive, integrated, and supportive of economic recovery and inclusive growth in each region.

Building on existing collaborative, regional working and rooted in local knowledge and understanding of skills needs, the Pathfinder groups in the South of Scotland and the North East of Scotland have prioritised these projects which will have the most impact on securing:

  • Simpler pathways and improved outcomes for learners.
  • Alignment of provision against societal and employer need.
  • Enhanced coherence and sustainability across provision.

The Pathfinder programme flows from the insights in the SFC Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability in 2021 and subsequent endorsement of the recommendations by the Scottish Government and was launched in Spring 2022.

The pilots are currently in the development and testing phase with delivery of new course provision and pathways expected from August 2023 onwards.

With a sharp focus on coherent learning provision, SFC will continue to work alongside the colleges, universities and partners as they draw out the learning from this pilot work. The regional pilots will inform potential system improvement and develop expectations, guidance and good practice for the tertiary education system around skills planning and delivery.



South of Scotland region

Developing a joint prospectus for learning and innovation in the land-based sector

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Borders College have a strong track record of serving the
land-based sector in the South of Scotland. To improve awareness of the further and higher education courses they offer in this key sector of the region’s economy, they are partnering to develop a joint prospectus showcasing the complete range of learning options and pathways at each level of study.

This will include flexible short courses and practice-based innovation opportunities, clearly promoting land-based opportunities to those at all stages.

In addition to highlighting existing courses, SRUC and Borders will identify areas to develop new
land-based courses and provision in the region. To support the local agri-tech industry and its employees, it will establish an innovation scheme encouraging regional upskilling and growth.

It is anticipated that the prospectus will be available for the 2023-24 academic year onwards, with the development of new courses being undertaken soon after.


West of Scotland Educational Pathways

Dumfries and Galloway College and the University of the West of Scotland are working in partnership to deliver a broader range of programmes and integrated pathways and a more efficient learner journey for learners in the south-west. By taking a fresh approach to joint curriculum planning at the regional level, they are collaborating to introduce at least two new integrated degree pathways in the first instance which will be delivered locally.

These new pathways are a development of the partnership between the institutions, which has led to the institutions progressing plans to co-locate within the College campus in Dumfries and Galloway. Working closely with Dumfries and Galloway Council and schools, the new courses will help to develop a more integrated tertiary landscape in the south-west of Scotland by providing high-quality options for degree-level study in the region.

The pilot also aims to spur an increase in applications for degree-level study in Dumfries and Galloway, helping retain and attract talent and contributing to the development of advanced knowledge and skills levels.

It is expected that the first of these pathways will be launched in the 2023-24 academic year.


South of Scotland Digital Skills Hub and Pathfinder

Borders College and Dumfries and Galloway College are leading the South of Scotland Digital Skills Hub Pathfinder. The initiative, underway in the region, is aiming to help the South of Scotland become more competitive by facilitating the delivery of higher-level digital skills to students, individuals, and businesses.

With the support of key regional partners, the Digital Skills Hub will strive to expand digital talent to provide employers with the skills they need, as the South of Scotland moves towards a more digitised economy.

Through a combination of targeted promotion and delivery support, the colleges are seeking to promote opportunities for digital education and extend the number of college and upskilling places in this area. This will include a focus on diversifying digital talent and ensuring that girls, women, and minority learners are able to benefit.


North-East Scotland

National Energy Skills Accelerator (NESA) – Energy Transition Skills Interactive Pathway

The Energy Transition Skills Interactive Pathway is being developed by the National Energy Skills Accelerator (NESA): a collaborative initiative between Robert Gordon University, the University of Aberdeen and North East Scotland College, supported by key partners Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and Energy Transition Zone Ltd.

Skills demands are developing as a result of energy transition, creating a confusing landscape for people looking to join, transfer to, or progress within the energy industry. This pilot aims to develop an interactive pathway tool enabling individuals to identify qualifications needed for specific jobs in the low-carbon energy sector and outlining available options to undertake these qualifications in the region.

By communicating clear routes through education provision into renewables sectors, the interactive pathway tool aims to promote opportunities for people to reskill and upskill, as well as for people to enter the sector. The clarification of the varied options to gain qualifications with each of the regional providers will also help learners to build up a portfolio of qualifications and receive recognition of their chosen skills pathway.

In addition to enhancing understanding and routes to qualifications for individuals, the pilot will also help inform careers advisors and employers of available provision and pathways.


Developing demand-led, aligned, and sustainable learner pathways

Building on twenty years of joint working and trust, North East Scotland College and Robert Gordon University are intensifying their partnership with the introduction of enhanced course
co-design and joint planning arrangements.

This initiative will accelerate a joint approach to skills and provision planning and course development between the two institutions and deliver pathways for learners which respond to changing skills needs in priority sectors for the region. Alongside SFC, Skills Development Scotland will play a key role in supporting this intensified approach to skills and provision working.

The extension of the partnership through the pilot will ensure that the institutions can make best use of their resources and expertise to build highly effective pathways benefiting learners, employers, the North-east region, and beyond.


Enhancing the Senior Phase

North East Scotland College along with Robert Gordon University, the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council have a shared commitment to better understand the senior phase and to consider changes required for its future enhancement. The longer-term aim is to exploit opportunities, share resources and use physical spaces most effectively to ensure there are opportunities for all young people to develop vocational and life skills.

The pilot will focus on three tests of change. By developing a programme for winter school leavers, it will provide opportunities for young people to access a positive destination such as a higher-level college course or employment. By providing access to practical programmes, it will encourage early achievement and improve prospects.

As an extension of work underway by Aberdeen City Council, the Council will aim to make HNC group awards available to an increased number of S6 pupils. Pupils will be able to continue as part of their school community, and the activity will consider available articulation options on completion.

The pilot will be supported by a strategic working group comprised of representatives from all key partners. This group will maximise opportunities, as a collective, for the future enhancement of the senior phase.


Enhancing and Co-ordinating the region’s simulation infrastructure for health and social care education

Robert Gordon University, in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen, North East Scotland College, local authorities, and NHS Grampian and their health and social care partners, is working to generate a shared understanding of existing simulation infrastructure for health and social care. Through an initial mapping exercise, it will provide a baseline and anticipate future needs to support the region’s health and social care providers with a skilled workforce.

By co-ordinating existing and new simulation facilities across the region, it will enhance training and upskilling opportunities for current and future clinical students and staff, ensuring they have access to local infrastructure. It will also support interdisciplinary learning through the range of partners involved and the breadth of health and social care covered.

Through enhancing this provision, this pilot will have a positive impact on current and future learning and career pathways and encourage the development of a sustainable health and social care workforce for the region.

To ensure simulation is linked to learning and career opportunities, the pilot will also develop signposting, toolkits and exemplifications which map progression pathways.

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

Building a connected, agile, sustainable tertiary education and research system for Scotland.

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