Urgent action needed to tackle skills shortage, says Audit Scotland

A new report says the Scottish Government needs to set out its goals and how to achieve them.

Urgent action needed to tackle skills shortage, says Audit Scotland iStock
The auditor said the Government has not provided enough clarity on how to match training and education with the demands of the economy.

Urgent action is needed to improve workforce skills planning, auditors have told the Scottish Government.

Audit Scotland says the Government has not provided enough leadership or clarity on how to match training and education with the demands of the economy.

A report released on Thursday says the Scottish Government needs to set out its goals and how to achieve them.

It says: “There are gaps in social care and demand for new skills in digital and responding to the climate emergency.

“Withdrawal from the EU and Covid‑19 have further sharpened the focus on workforce skills.”

In 2017, the Scottish Government agreed to improve skills planning in order to make it more effective, but the report found Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) had not been provided with the necessary leadership.

Auditor general Stephen Boyle said: “The Scottish Government recognises that workforce skills are central to inclusive and sustainable economic recovery and growth, but it has not provided the leadership needed to deliver on its skills alignment agenda.

“As a result, the anticipated benefits have not been achieved and opportunities for more efficient and effective investment have been missed.

“The Scottish Government now urgently needs to set out what it intends to achieve and how it will measure progress, as well as clarifying the governance and oversight arrangements for skills alignment activity.”

Responding to the report, minister for youth employment and training Jamie Hepburn said: “I welcome the recommendations that Audit Scotland have made and the Scottish Government and our agencies accept them in full.

“Good progress is being made to drive recovery from the challenges of the pandemic; we have invested more than £1bn in 2021-22 to support jobs and equip our workforce with the future skills it needs.

“The Scottish Employer Skills Survey 2020 shows the proportion of organisations reporting a skills shortage vacancy down to 3% in 2020 from 6% in 2017, and a reduction in the percentage of employers reporting skills gaps within their workforce over the same period

“Progress has been made in improving collaboration between SDS and SFC, with more robust Scottish Government leadership, governance and accountability arrangements now in place.

“But I recognise more has to be done and I will be working closely with those partners also have a critical role to play in ensuring these positive trends continue.”

Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for finance and economy Liz Smith MSP said: “This report should make for very sobering reading for SNP ministers. It is clear that there has been a void of leadership in recent years from the Scottish Government on such a crucial issue for our economy.

“As we look to accelerate our recovery from the pandemic, this situation cannot continue. Ensuring that our current and future workforce have the right skillset should be a top priority.”