Ross Martin, Chair of Forth Valley College and ERG Team Member, shares the teams thoughts on the latest factors Scotland‘s Colleges should consider when planning for skills.

As Scotland’s labour market adjusts to the seismic economic shift caused by the ‘Triple C’ cocktail of; the Constitutional changes wrought by Brexit, the Covid induced crisis and of course the much larger projected impacts of the Climate Emergency, it has never been more important to ensure national economic coherence and nurture regional economic diversity – the two sides of what we call the currency of inclusive growth.

This twin-tracked approach, as demanded by the pre-pandemic Enterprise & Skills Review, will rely more than ever on a skills led recovery backed up by a recognition that economic and environmental sustainability are mutually supportive and not destructive.

Our programme’s focus on our colleges as regional anchors for resilient, inclusive and sustainable economic renewal has already demonstrated a sector-wide ambition to be proactively engaged in shaping partnerships and strategies which generate an operating context conducive to high quality learning, teaching and training.

With their physical presence in the local communities they serve, we can see that colleges are at the sharp end of dealing with the evident mismatch between the skills demands of growing sectors in their regional economies and the supply of work-ready learners able to take advantage of those opportunities.

Recent research published by City and Guilds has projected that 3.1 million key worker job openings are expected in the next five years across the UK, making up 50% of openings in the job market, of which over 300,000 will be entirely new jobs. Every one of them must be seen as a green job too, making many of these roles more attractive than that same research suggested, with  only around a quarter of working age adults surveyed would even consider them.

Another key element is the Fair Work agenda, which Scotland’s colleges are embracing, seizing the opportunities of change, often driven by students and staff, to work in different ways to demonstrate, and often lead, how the workplace of the future is fast becoming our current experience.

At the regional level our colleges have a crucial role in working collaboratively with businesses, local government, universities, growth deals, enterprise agencies and national deliverers of initiatives to ensure the efforts of all are robustly aligned.  Although there’s some great practice out there, we still have a way to go to ensure this approach is, as we say at Forth Valley College, truly ‘Making Learning Work’.

The Auditor General for Scotland’s recent report on Planning for Skills asks some very challenging questions about our collective use of the public pound across the plethora of national agencies, anchor institutions and other organisations involved in developing our skills pipelines, and our work is demonstrating that colleges must be up front and centre in aligning that provision, helping to lead at the regional level.  We will continue to work with college leaders along with their partners to ensure we take on the challenges highlighted in that report, by not only responding to the changing needs of the labour market but by helping to shape it in each of our regional economies.

For further information on the ERG programme, please contact Paul Smart at

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