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Independent review of skills development system in Scotland launched

Jamie Hepburn (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)
Jamie Hepburn (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)

An independent review into Scotland’s skills system has been launched to ensure the process is “fit for purpose”, the Scottish Government announced.

Announcing the review in the chamber, Youth Employment and Training Minister Jamie Hepburn said Scotland performs well in post-school education.

Scotland has the highest share of the population aged 25 to 64 with at least tertiary education compared with other EU countries, according to the most recent data.

And the Scottish Employer Perspectives survey showed the majority of employers are satisfied with the skill levels of those moving to work from education.

In 2021, 68% found school leavers recruited to be well or very well prepared and the figure rose to 78% for college leavers and 80% for those transitioning from university.

However, Mr Hepburn told MSPs of the need to respond to the increasing number of people who will need upskilling as a result of the changing economic landscape.

The review will be led by James Withers, former chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, and will seek to take advantage of new opportunities such as the digital transformation.

It will include focusing on how to continue the process of better aligning the responsibilities of Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council, looking at areas such as the design and delivery of training, apprenticeship programmes, regional and sectoral skills planning and employer engagement.

Mr Hepburn said: “While the foundations of Scotland’s post-school education and skills system are strong, we need a skills system that meets the demands of an ever-changing world.

“That skills system has to be simple, people-focused and built on effective collaboration across sectors and regions – between the public sector and business, and across our public bodies.

“We must also ensure our skills delivery landscape can drive forward our ambitions in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

“James Withers has a wealth of experience in industry that will bring objectivity, creativity and rigour to the independent review.

“The review will engage widely with stakeholders across the skills and education landscape, including of course the staff of our agencies, and it will report to ministers by spring 2023.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Pam Gosal said more work needed to be done to immediately address the employment skills shortages.

She said: “I had hoped today’s statement would outline bold reform to the Scottish Government’s approach to skills delivery.

“Instead, we are looking at a mere rearranging of the deck chairs. This review will need to bring about real structural changes in order to see genuine improvement.”