Scotland business

Skills training in Scotland needs clearer focus, says think tank

Lecture theatre Image copyright Thinkstock

The way in which people in Scotland are trained for work needs to change in order to meet future challenges, a think tank has warned.

The Equipping Scotland for the Future report was published by the Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland.

It said colleges, apprenticeships and work-based training had to concentrate on tackling issues around pay, progression and productivity.

It also called for a skills system "with a much clearer national focus".

The Scottish government said Scotland had the highest proportion of employees, about 80%, paid the Living Wage of all the four countries of the UK.

Ministers said they were working to ensure a skills system where businesses, academics and civic partners work together to "optimise economic impact".

'Weaknesses in economy'

The IPPR Scotland report said Scotland's pay rate had fallen behind the UK after catching up between 2010 and 2015.

It also found fewer Scots progressed from low-skilled jobs to middle and high-skilled jobs than in the rest of the country.

Scotland's standing has improved against the national average, but the UK is said to have performed poorly over this time.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The skills system includes colleges, apprenticeships and in-work training

Rachael Thomas, a research fellow at IPPR Scotland, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that the skills system must help to deliver the economy that the country needs.

She said: "Technology change doesn't just destroy jobs, it also creates new ones.

"And history suggests that the jobs that are created will be more highly skilled than the ones that are lost.

"New technologies will therefore require new skills and the skills system will really need to respond and adapt to increased demand from the labour market in this area."

The report suggested technological and demographic changes would alter the economy and society resulting in people working longer in multiple careers and for multiple employers.

The think tank put forward six measures for improvement, including setting out a clear national purpose for the skills system.

It said there should be "regional integration" and flexibility of learning to encourage people to learn at their own pace.

Further recommendations included increasing the skills that can be transferred and clarifying the routes to learning to avoid "confusion and duplication".

Address skills gaps

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability and Training, said the Scottish government was using "all of the powers at our disposal" to promote fair pay and conditions.

He added: "We know it's important that we address skills gaps and have confirmed we will use the apprenticeship levy, which the UK government forced on Scotland without consultation, to give both employers and employees more options and flexibility.

"We will boost Modern Apprenticeships and address skills gaps and the training needs of existing employees where a full apprenticeship might not be appropriate.

"Our review of enterprise and skills agencies will look at building on existing strengths to ensure a system where all of our agencies work with each other and collaboratively with our business, academic and civic partners to optimise economic impact across the whole of Scotland."

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