An ambitious plan focusing on the skills needs of people and businesses across the South of Scotland has been launched. The Regional Skills Investment Plan for the south of Scotland aims to provide a greater choice of career pathways for the region’s young people, while offering more opportunities for upskilling and reskilling to the current workforce.
Developed by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) alongside the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP), the plan involves a range of partners collaborating to agree a set of actions around the supply and demand of skills in the region to support inclusive economic growth. They include:
- improving access to education, skills and training
- better meeting the skills needs of all employers
- growing and developing the workforce
- developing a region for young people
- creating a culture of enterprise and innovation
- future proofing the skills system
The plan was welcomed by Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity. He said: “This is more good news for the South of Scotland, after the Scottish Parliament passed the Act which will create a new enterprise agency for the region. While the agency will play a central role in regenerating the region’s economy, people are the cornerstone of that regeneration. It is vital that they have access to the best training and skills development opportunities possible. I welcome the launch of the skills investment plan today which sets out how that goal can be achieved.”
The plan recognises the unique characteristics of the south of Scotland economy and the importance of its rural context, which is aligned with the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland published by SDS earlier in June. It is estimated that the south of Scotland is home to 126,100 jobs, with wholesale and retail, human health and social work, agriculture, forestry and fishing and manufacturing being the biggest sectors.
Frank Mitchell, Chair of SDS, said: “The publication of this plan comes at a pivotal moment, as the creation of an enterprise agency for the south of Scotland provides fresh scope to address the challenges faced by the regional economy. For employers, the opportunity now exists to engage in this work – to help shape its direction, to reap the benefits and to contribute to the region’s future prosperity. That involves taking a strategic approach to workforce development, engaging in the evolution of our learning and skills system and embracing the principles of fair work.”
The plan was launched at a visit to Selkirk-based employer Border Safeguard, where a range of partners involved in the development of the plan alongside SDS and SOSEP met with some of the firm’s apprentices.
Chair of SOSEP Russel Griggs said: “The plan is a product of deep engagement with numerous partner organisations, employers, parents and, critically, young people across the region. This has formed the basis of strong regional partnership working that will enable successful delivery. The plan must be flexible to reflect new opportunities and deal with further external challenges. SOSEP has begun that journey by investing about £7 million in expanding what the two local colleges can do to make sure we can train our local people in different things, in different places and in different ways.”
Publication of the plan was welcomed by Border Safeguard Managing Director Alan Wheelans. He said: “As an employer, we’re proud to have a strong track record in youth employment and apprenticeships as it’s a vital part of our business strategy. Because of that, we recognise that skills are a key issue for the regional economy and we’re confident that the Skills Investment Plan will play an important role in helping businesses like ours to meet our growth ambitions.”