Upskilling and retraining for future jobs a ‘national challenge’ that needs a collaborative response

From left, Damien Yeates, Chief Executive, Skills Development Scotland
Tracy Black, Director, CBI Scotland
Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Business, Fair Work & Skills
Dr Ken Thomson, Principal, Forth Valley College

Business, government and the education sector need to work more closely together in order to meet Scotland’s future skills needs, according to one of the country’s leading business organisations.

There needs to be greater partnership working to address the upskilling and retraining needs of the workforce as part of a new wave of automation and artificial intelligence that will transform traditional sectors, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Scotland has said.

The CBI – Confedertation of British Industry – made the call as it joined forces this week with Skills Development Scotland and Forth Valley College for Scottish Apprenticeship Week.

They showcased the benefits of apprenticeships to employers, highlighting the value of a system in Scotland that aligns with the needs of employers and the economy.

Apprenticeships formed a central part of a broader morning programme of discussion amongst delegates looking at Scotland’s future upskilling and retraining needs where there was a call for greater partnership between business, government and the education sector in meeting Scotland’s future skills needs.

With technology playing an increasingly important role in shaping the way we live and work, decisions government and businesses make now about skills policy will directly impact how people can take advantage of the opportunities it creates. 

These decisions will also be crucial to ensuring no one is left behind as artificial intelligence and automation continue to transform the workplace.

Despite its increasing importance, the proportion of employees undertaking job-related training has fallen sharply in recent years, with Scotland now ranking third out of the four UK nations. With 80 percent of the workforce in 2030 having already left compulsory education, reversing this trend and creating a culture of lifelong learning will be crucial to ensuring that everyone is equipped with the skills they need to benefit from the changing world of work.   

The time to implement a step-change is now, as evidenced by some key statistics:

  • Nine in ten workers are set to need some form of reskilling by 2030. 
  • One in six workers will go through a radical job change and need retraining.
  • 80% of the workforce of 2030 are already in work today.

The ‘Future of Talent’ conference at Forth Valley’s new £78 million campus brings together professionals from business, government and education to explore the range of high-quality training options already available to young people and those already in work, and look at how we work more closely together to tackle some of the barriers that exist to increasing investment in training. 

Tracy Black, CBI Scotland Director, said: “We need to look at technological change as an opportunity rather than a threat – but that means ensuring that no business or employee is left behind. For businesses, that means not only investing in innovation and new technologies but also ensuring workers are supported to upskill to keep pace with the changing world of work.   

“To meet that challenge we need business and government, as well as our fantastic colleges and universities, all pulling in the same direction. That means offering young people, as well as those looking to move into new roles, a range of high-quality options to advance their careers. 

“Scotland has great options available when it comes to equipping people with the skills they’ll need, including foundation apprenticeships and much in-demand graduate apprenticeships. Places like Forth Valley’s new Falkirk campus are a perfect example of how this can work in practice, with first rate training helping to deliver and inspire Scotland’s future workforce.”

Damien Yeates, Chief Executive, Skills Development Scotland, said: “We know disruption and rapid change in the labour market will alter the future of work. Rapid, short, sharp upskilling and reskilling is already being demanded by industry to address these challenges. 

“SDS is driving for ambitious change and innovations in the skills system, in collaboration with industry and education, to support a much-needed turnaround in declining investment in training. It is this change that will enable Scotland’s businesses and people to thrive in the future.”     

Dr Ken Thomson, Forth Valley College Principal, said: “We were delighted to host the latest in the CBI Conference series – The Future of Talent, with such a fantastic range of quality speakers. The key focus of the discussion was on how industry, government, colleges, schools and universities can work together to develop the workforce of the future in an increasingly fast-paced, complex digital world. 

“At Forth Valley College we recognise that with technology playing an increasingly important role in shaping our skill requirements for the future, we will continue to ensure our learning and teaching strategy supports upskilling and retraining at all points of the skills pipeline, including a fully engaged digital workforce.”