'Fit for purpose' test

Withers to lead review of Scotland’s skills delivery

James Withers
James Withers: looking at delivery (pic: Terry Murden)

Former Scotland Food and Drink chief executive James Withers is to lead an independent review into how skills are delivered in a digital economy.

Minister for Youth Employment and Training Jamie Hepburn said he wants to ensure the system is fit for purpose.

Mr Withers, who recently stepped down from the food and drink lobby group, will focus on economic transformation.

It will assess 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.”

The most recent available data show that compared to EU countries Scotland has the highest share of population aged 25 to 64 years with at least tertiary education.

The Scottish Employer Perspectives survey shows that the majority of employers are well satisfied with the skill levels of those moving to work from education. In 2021, of the employers surveyed, 68% found school leavers recruited to be well or very well prepared. This figure rose to 78% for college leavers and 80% for those transitioning from university.

The skills review will take account of, and not seek to duplicate, wider reform recommendations and review work that is underway including the outcomes of the Muir Report and the Hayward Review.

The review will not revisit the steps previously set out for taking forward the recommendations of the Scottish Funding Council Review of Coherence and Stability and the Careers Review.

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