Skills Development Scotland (SDS) today said that a reduction in immigrant workers due to Brexit, the rise in the number of older staff hitting retirement, and poor transport links are all factors that could stall economic growth in Edinburgh and South East Scotland.
To help deal with these issues SDS, along with a range of partners, has launched a new Skills Investment Plan (SIP) for the region. It will ensure all public sector agencies work more effectively together to meet the needs of employers and locals while encouraging economic growth and tackling inequality.
Spanning Edinburgh, Fife, West Lothian, Midlothian, East Lothian and Scottish Borders, the plan was welcomed by Angela Leitch, Chief Executive of East Lothian Council and Chair of the Skills and Innovation Workstream Group for the region.
She said: “This is a time of real opportunity and change. While there is diverse employment and a growing business base - with opportunities across a range of key sectors such as retail, tourism, financial services, health and social care – it’s essential that the new investment in the region benefits our own communities with a focus on inclusive growth.
“As the projects start to develop we need to ensure that skills supply keeps pace with demand, and that there are improved opportunities to support our citizens into and through employment. This is precisely what this Regional Skills Investment Plan is designed to do.”
The SIP sets out a 20 year vision to secure economic prosperity for the region as well as a three year action plan developed with a range of partners including local employers and educators.
It states that there is a growing need for digital, leadership and management skills to drive growth and diversification. But it also reports that while the region has a highly-qualified workforce, it also has higher than average levels of under-employment as well as an ageing population.
According to Phil Ford, Regional Skills Planning Lead for SDS, these issues along with Brexit and the lack of transport links in rural areas, mean it’s imperative to start thinking now about skills and employment needs for the next two decades.
“There are a number of strengths to this region’s economy, but also many variances between and within different local authorities, based on a range of factors such as geography and labour market conditions.
“This SIP offers the flexibility to deal with those variances while providing the strategic long-term approach which will help partners addresses some very real and some very big challenges like Brexit and retiring workers.”
At the heart of the plan are seven areas of action to be addressed over the next three years:
- Building capacity and evidence to underpin a regional approach to skills investment
- Ensuring skills opportunities from the City Regional Deal are maximised
- Establishing clear pathways into key sectors and occupations
- Developing an employer-led programme to improve digital skills
- Enhancing support for developing leadership, management and entrepreneurial skills
- Providing high-quality and more effective support to residents to access skills training
- Enabling graduates and older workers to make more effective use of their skills
The plan will be a key driver in helping deliver the ambitious targets laid out in the £25 million, eight year Integrated Regional Employability and Skills (IRES) programme, which includes giving nearly 15,000 more people access to training , as well as finding additional employment for 5,000 more.
Fife College is one of a range of partners which supports the launch of the new Skills Investment Plan.
Hugh Hall, Principal at Fife College said:
“The opportunity to influence and implement programmes designed to really help residents and businesses is a real privilege. We are delighted to be part of such an important plan of action - the first of its kind to be launched in Scotland - and we are confident that we and the other partners will deliver exactly what employers and the local communities need in terms of education and skills for the foreseeable and successful future.”