From education to employment

Importance of upskilling and retraining to the future success of the Scottish economy

In a historic move, CBI Scotland and the STUC have joined forces to issue a joint letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlining the importance of upskilling and retraining to the future success of the Scottish economy.

Last week the two bodies called on the First Minister to make a significant commitment to improving upskilling and retraining in the forthcoming Programme for Government.

Championing a partnership approach that takes into consideration the needs of both employers and workers, both organisations made clear their commitment to working with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to deliver a vision that works for all.

Speaking about the letter, Tracy Black, CBI Scotland Director, said:

“Building a resilient, inclusive and competitive economy that’s not only fit for the future but can embrace the opportunities offered by changing technologies and automation today, is absolutely vital to our future success – but this has to be managed in the right way.

“With technological change showing no sign of slowing down we need to have a shared vision for what the future of work looks like – one that ensures no-one is left behind, worker or employer. That’s why we’re delighted to have partnered with the STUC to make this a key pillar of our engagement ahead of the Programme for Government.”

Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, said:

“The nature of work is changing. This poses many challenges for workers and their employers. Workers need secure jobs that are well designed and which allow them to use their skills to the full. Unions have a key role to play in developing responses to technological change that support fair work objectives, allow businesses to flourish and contribute to inclusive growth in Scotland. Where the objectives of unions align with those of the Scottish Government and CBI Scotland when considering the future nature of work, the interest of workers needs to be at the forefront of workplace action and in the national policy debate.”

Full text of letter to First Minister (dated 23 August 2018): Support for upskilling and retraining in the Programme for Government

With the Programme for Government due 4th September, it is our view that a renewed focus on skills is required to ensure Scotland’s economy is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Getting this right is key to building a resilient, inclusive and competitive economy.

Discussions about the future of work need to take account of changing technologies and automation. Employers and workers will be materially affected by technological change and Scotland’s skills system needs to be able to cope with this changing environment.

As you are aware, workers are the backbone of every successful company and the best companies work hard to retain, reward and support their staff. While better education and a shared understanding about the opportunities and risks of technological change are key parts of the solution, we urgently need to develop and invest in adaptation strategies that work for both firms and individuals.

Central to this approach is building a culture of lifelong learning and skills development through upskilling and retraining. As a country, we need to ensure that individual employees and the workforce as a whole are supported and confident in their ability to train and learn and ultimately meet the needs and demands of our future economy. Employers must also be challenged and supported to provide appropriate opportunities to develop skills and unlock potential.

Preparing for the future is a joint-effort, with all stakeholders committed to seizing the opportunities and mitigating the risks of technological change. We believe that success can only be achieved when employers, trade unions and government work together to achieve this shared aim.

For businesses across Scotland, access to skills remains their number one concern, and filling high skilled roles can be a significant challenge. While many businesses are already investing in training and development, a step change is needed if we are to futureproof our economy. That means proper support for workers, identifying early which roles are likely to be in demand. We must also have a clear focus on developing and implementing a strategy that allows workers to bolster their existing skills and transfer them between settings and sectors, allowing a smooth transition to new roles. And workers need jobs designed and work organised in a way that allows them to make full use of the skills and knowledge they possess.

Skills policy is a common thread that runs through Scotland’s economic strategy. The Scottish Government has already made steps in the right direction, but it is time for all of us to step up to the challenge. The CBI and STUC are keen to work together with government on this issue and would very much welcome an opportunity to meet and discuss this further.

Yours sincerely

Tracy Black, CBI Scotland Director

Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary

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