Open Institute of Technology recommended for Scotland

Sector based ‘innovation academies’ should be established in Scotland, along with an Open Institute of Technology to provide a “flexible and transferable mid-career learning route”, according to a report by IPPR Scotland. Scotland faces multiple opportunities and challenges around demographic change, technological change and decarbonisation, it says.

Changes brought about by Brexit and potential changes to Scotland’s constitutional future and place in the world “add to this moving picture”. The IPPR report outlines how the skills system could be at the centre of navigating a path through to 2030 in a way that “delivers the inclusive economic growth we need to see”.

“The world of work in 2030 will be very different to that in 2017,” says the IPPR. “People are more likely to be working longer, and will often have multiple jobs, with multiple employers and in multiple careers. Over 2.5m adults of working age in Scotland today – nearly 80% – will still be of working age by 2030. At the same time, over 46% of jobs – 1.2m – in Scotland are at high risk of automation. We will therefore need a skills system ready to work with people throughout their careers.”

The report recommends:

An Open Institute of Technology

A new mid-career learning route, with a mix of online and face-to-face provision delivered through existing providers, in a fully flexible, transferable and modular approach. This route would be focussed on delivering improved rates of career progression, pay and productivity, starting in low-skill sectors.

A focus on progression, pay and productivity

The skills system as a whole should be focussed on improving Scotland’s rates of career progression, pay and productivity – moving to an outcome-based approach around these ‘three Ps’.

Progression agreements

New tripartite agreements between learners, employers and skills providers should be introduced. Employers would agree to a form of career progression if learners meet certain learning outcomes, and in return the skills provider would fund provision (through public funding). This would bring a focus on progression and a test of learner and employer demand at the micro-level.

Career pathways

Career pathways should be developed in Scotland that outline the education, qualifications and skills required to progress through a range of careers, co-designed by learners and employers.

Qualifications review

Skills qualifications should be reviewed to ensure they remain fit for their purpose – particularly in relation to further education – to explore the ability to modularise and move more of the system online, and to open up the transferability of qualifications across the full range of learning routes.

Innovation academies

New sector-based innovation academies should be established, tasked with driving productivity levels up, including through harnessing the potential of the work undertaken by colleges and skills providers every day to bring innovation to business practices in Scotland.

Business investment

Business investment has been declining across the UK. With the introduction of the UK-wide apprenticeship levy, we need to see an increase in investment, and further work needs to be done to encourage and enable employers to adopt high-skill business models. To champion this, the Scottish government should consider how business tax allowances could be used to encourage investment in skills by employers.

A progression unit

The report identifies a ‘progression gap’ – low levels of career progression for low-skilled workers in Scotland – which we suspect is related to the attainment gap at school, and the fair access gap in post-16 education. Improving progression rates will also work to tackle rates of in-work poverty and drive social mobility in Scotland. A new progression unit would be tasked with researching, monitoring and evaluating activity designed to close this progression gap.