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‘Too early’ to decide on combining skills agencies, says minister

The minister announced there will be single sources of funding for apprenticeships and learning support (Alamy/PA)
The minister announced there will be single sources of funding for apprenticeships and learning support (Alamy/PA)

There will be single sources of funding for apprenticeships and learning support, a minister has said, but it is “too early” to decide on combining skills agencies.

It comes after a review by James Withers, former chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, recommended a “ruthless” overhaul of the skills system.

Mr Withers said there should be a single funding body which brings together functions from the Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland.

On Tuesday, further education minister Graeme Dey gave a statement to MSPs with the Government’s response to the Withers report.

Graeme Dey
Education minister Graeme Dey updated MSPs (PA)

He said: “James Withers called for the creation of a single funding body.

“We do not rule that out. As an initial step I’m today committing to bringing together learner support funding into one place and funding for apprenticeship provision into one place.”

He said the Government is keen to improve the careers offering and it is not necessary to wait for “structural change” to bring this about.

MSPs in the chamber sought more clarity from the minister on when the changes will happen.

Mr Dey told Conservative Liam Kerr that the single funding body will be a “very complex piece of work to carry out”.

Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy said the statement had “little of substance in it” and said colleges across Scotland are struggling.

Pam Duncan-Glancy
Pam Duncan-Glancy said there was ‘little of substance’ in the minister’s statement (PA)

But Mr Dey responded: “This presentation about the colleges sector and how it’s broken is not one I recognise at all.”

SNP backbencher John Mason said the Withers report had recommended reducing the role of Skills Development Scotland (SDS), and the MSP asked whether the number of organisations involved in the skills sector could be reduced.

Mr Dey said SDS remains “an integral part of our education and skills system”.

He added: “There is likely a need for changes in the public body landscape in the future, but it’s too early to speculate on exactly what those changes will be.

“These decisions will be taken based on the evidence, informed by detailed policy development and analysis.”