University and College Courses (Skills Matching)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 1 February 2024.

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Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government how it matches up the skills required in the economy with the courses on offer at Scotland’s colleges and universities. (S6O-03041)

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

As I confirmed to Parliament recently, and as is set out in “Purpose and Principles for Post-School Education Research and Skills”, the Scottish Government will lead skills planning at the national level and will support the development of skills planning at regional levels, in recognition that we must better align our education and skills system offering with the strategic skills need of the economy. We are developing those approaches in close collaboration with colleges and universities, along with other partners—particularly employers—and we are looking to get the clearest possible picture of the skills need across Government portfolios, now and for the future.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

We know th e self-inflicted, damaging effect that Brexit is having in this area, and the refusal by Labour and the Tories to support returning to the European Union any time soon will not help that one bit. Could the minister give some indication of what more we can reasonably do to help bridge the gap between what our local economies need and the capacity of our colleges and universities to deliver? In particular, how can we encourage more young people to start their own businesses in the trades that our economy so desperately needs?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

Willie Coffey makes a number of important points there. In all this, we need to draw a clear distinction between skill shortages and labour shortages. That is incredibly important. There is an issue about access to workforce, and Brexit has been a large part of that. We are trying to mitigate the damage that has been done to an extent. We are undertaking an exercise across Government at the moment, whereby I am asking colleagues across portfolios to engage with employers, colleges and universities to identify whether the cause behind some of the shortages relates to provision—and, if so, what we can do to address such causes.

The Government has taken a number of other measures, but Willie Coffey makes an interesting point about how we encourage young people to start up businesses. I have seen some good, leading examples of that in a number of our universities, which I think we could roll out more widely.

Photo of Audrey Nicoll Audrey Nicoll Scottish National Party

Ensuring fair access to higher education is clearly critical in ensuring that Scotland has the skilled workforce that we need for the future. I ask the minister for his response to the report from the Commissioner for Fair Access that was published earlier this week.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I think that I covered mos t of that a moment ago. There is no doubt that the report makes positive reading—and even our political opponents would have to acknowledge that. However, we have some ground to make up to complete the journey that we set out on. Therefore, within days of receiving the report, I have tasked officials with considering how we build on the achievements so far, including how we overcome some of the data-sharing issues that are an impediment, so that we can move forward, as we all want to do.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I am afraid that, although Ms Chapman was hoping to join us online for question 5, we have noted that the internet connection has been coming in and out. I do not think that there is any point in starting off something that we might not be able to complete. I apologise to members who were seeking to ask supplementaries, but the internet connection is not stable. We will move to question 6.