From education to employment

Risk to Scotland’s economic success if investment doesn’t flow to colleges; job loss warning

First fall in GDP

The Scottish Government must invest in Scotland’s colleges in next month’s Budget or Scotland will miss the opportunity to create the skilled workforce required to maintain key services today and service the green industries of the future.

In its funding submission to Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Colleges Scotland makes the case for investment for key industries which desperately need qualified staff – construction, care, digital and hospitality. In the green technology sector alone, offshore wind requires 40,000 new workers, hydrogen could create up to 40,000 new jobs, and over 25,000 skilled workers are needed to support Scotland’s transport infrastructure. An additional 16,000 people are needed to work in low carbon heating in Scotland by 2030. Colleges will play a vital role in creating this workforce and require investment to deliver the world-class education and training needed.

Colleges Scotland is also warning that up to 1,500 jobs could be lost from the college sector over the next five years. Reducing the college workforce will come about because of falling funding to colleges in the flat-cash settlement already announced by Scottish Government, the impact of inflation, and increasing wage bills making it almost impossible for colleges to balance their books.

Colleges cannot borrow funds, and must produce a balanced budget each year.

Shona Struthers, Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland said:

“Colleges as part of the public sector are asking for a fair settlement in the Budget, which would benefit students today and allow colleges to be viable for the students of tomorrow.

“If Scotland slows its investment in education and skills training, there will be real challenges ahead – the recruitment issues for some critical industries will go from a gap to a chasm which will be much harder to fix later.

“It is likely that a substantial number of jobs will be lost from colleges over the coming years which will impact on the ability of colleges to deliver. The amount of college budgets spent on pay is increasing at the same time as the investment coming to colleges is falling, and a reducing workforce is one of the very tough outcomes we are expecting to see. 

“The Scottish Government have set out their three key goals of economic transformation, addressing the climate emergency and tackling child poverty. Colleges are integral in delivering these ambitions, and I would urge Ministers to get investment into colleges where it offers value for money for the public purse, opportunities for people across Scotland, and adds massively to economic productivity.”

Overall the submission to the Scottish Government requests college funding for learning and teaching of £522m, the same as last year, plus an inflationary uplift of £52.7m.

College energy bills have soared, with colleges acting as “warm spaces” for their students throughout this winter, requiring an additional £15m next year. There is also an ask of £5m to support mental health and wellbeing, and £7.8m for digital inclusion.

Capital investment in Scotland’s colleges has been severely lacking for the last decade. Colleges Scotland sets out that £25m is required each year for repairs (called lifecycle maintenance), and £250m is invested in bringing colleges up to a baseline condition of wind and watertight, the minimum our students and staff should expect from their learning and working environments. And colleges in Scotland require replacement infrastructure – a meaningful, long-term investment into the future of the sector – of £525m.

Mr Swinney will set out the Scottish Government Budget for 2023/24 in a statement to the Scottish Parliament expected on 15 December.

Related Articles