By Jacqui Hepburn News Plugging the skills gap in Scotland 15 Feb 2012 Vocational training is sitting high on the news agenda thanks to National Apprenticeship Week. Jacqui Hepburn, Director of Alliance of Sector Skills Councils in Scotland, offers a glimpse of what is being done north of the border to plug the skills gap Our recent Scottish Sector Profile report looked at the profile of 24 sectors of the economy (Labour Market Intelligence reports), ranging from the creative industries to financial services and engineering to healthcare. It also examined the impact of the economic downturn on employment and skills in these sectors, and the findings were generally positive, demonstrating a fall in the level of skills gaps in Scotland’s workforce. There are however some sectors that are still experiencing a gap, such as food and drink; finance, accounting and financial services, and the retail sectors. Employers have had a difficult time ensuring skills, and the development of their workforce, remain a top priority against a background of recession and public sector spending cuts. The delivery of a skilled workforce has never been more relevant, ensuring that we are able to deliver employees equipped with the necessary skills to deliver sustainable economic growth. Reinforcing the importance of skills, the Scottish Government has pledged to deliver 25,000 modern apprenticeship places a year for the next five years, giving those involved the vocational training that’s relevant to their employment. And this encapsulates not just traditional sectors such as construction, but also accounting and the excellent work being undertaken by AAT. The Scottish Government has also committed to the creation of graduate apprenticeships – university-level apprenticeships that will enable new links between business, students and universities, allowing students to work and earn as they study and improving work-focused skills alongside flexible higher level study. Many people prefer a vocational route into accounting, and apprenticeships enable employers to tap in to a talent pool of professionals who choose not to take the academic route. Such modern apprenticeships give people the opportunity to work and learn at the same time, while helping employers get the best from their staff through vocational training and long-term support. By being able to understand the skills requirements of the workforce, both today and in the future, Alliance Scotland is able to work with schools, universities, colleges and training providers to ensure there is the right supply of skills to meet the demand required in key sectors and plug the skills gap. This ensures that skills funding is properly targeted at meeting employer needs, as well as ensuring those that are unemployed have the right skills to get them back into employment, especially important in the current cash-constrained economic climate. And we work closely with the Scottish government and Scottish parliament to ensure that this demand-led system is being delivered. The importance of delivering a skilled workforce cannot be underestimated if we are to continue our recovery from recession and deliver sustainable economic growth, and it is imperative that the right skills are available to employers in the right place, at the right time and in the right numbers. For more information on apprenticeships in Scotland, visit the Skills Development Scotland website or contact the AAT account management team. Jacqui Hepburn is a former writer for AAT Comment.