Colleges are helping people to cope with the pace of change in the jobs market - Diane Mitchell

The Scottish Funding Council’s report, Coherence and Sustainability: A Review of Tertiary Education and Research, acknowledges that the pace of change in the jobs market requires people to undertake more frequent reskilling and upskilling. It recommends the development of shorter, sharper courses to support lifetime learning.

This is already happening in colleges across the country. Colleges are delivering targeted training to people in work to enhance their skills so they can adapt to changes arising from the pandemic. Colleges are providing short, sharp courses to help people out of work gain the required skills to take advantage of new jobs.

West Lothian College supports the West Lothian Economic Recovery and Growth Plan by helping to develop a skilled and resilient workforce that is able to benefit from changes in the labour market. Working with hundreds of employers, we deliver a wide range of high quality Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) to thousands of employees.

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We make full and effective use of the Flexible Workforce Development Fund to deliver training courses to workers in companies like Walker Timber Engineering where Director Richard Baldwin said: “West Lothian College has been providing training solutions to us for a number of years. The planning and delivery of each course has been excellent, particularly in recent times having to adjust to remote/online learning solutions.”

The Glenmorangie Company’s Training and Development Specialist, Kerryanne Joyce agrees, “West Lothian College has supported our people development strategy for over 10 years, working with us to ensure content and accreditations align to our internal objectives. Most recently, their agility ensured successfully adapting to virtual learning to continue developing our teams at our production site throughout the pandemic.”

Jo McInally, HR Manager at Stevenswood Trades Centres Ltd agrees: “I have been working in partnership with West Lothian College for a couple of years and without fail the training provided has been beneficial for us. They deliver across our UK branches and offer a personal touch and are in tune with our needs to succeed.”

During the first lockdown last year we developed the Skills Boosts concept – short bursts of training that are flexible and bespoke to economic sectors and provide immediate support to people and companies. These Skills Boosts have helped prepare hundreds of local people to take advantage of jobs that are available even during a pandemic.

We also contribute to the development of a skilled workforce at a national level. Through a collaboration with Edinburgh, Fife and Forth Valley Colleges, our Skills Boost initiative became part of a package supported by the Scottish Government that was rolled out to colleges across the country.

The pandemic has led to the creation of new jobs, for example, to provide easy access to a coronavirus test, the Scottish Ambulance Service introduced mobile testing units across Scotland and recruited operatives to staff these. This initiative provided opportunities for hundreds of people, some of whom had lost their jobs because of the pandemic. On the job, these operatives are developing key skills like communication, safeguarding, and health and safety. To provide these workers with a qualification to apply for further opportunities within health and social care, we created a new Skills Boost in collaboration with the Scottish Ambulance Service.

Gateway to Health and Social Care is a transferable qualification, based on relevant SVQ units, that is enabling operatives across Scotland to formally demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have gained in their work at the testing units. This offers a stepping stone to pursuing a career in health and social care, as achieving it enables progression onto the full SVQ and gain a registrable qualification with the Scottish Social Services Council.

Colleges are helping people right now cope with the pace of change in the jobs market by supporting them to reskill and upskill. It is vital that we continue to be funded appropriately to carry out this essential work.

Diane Mitchell, Director of Workforce Development, West Lothian College

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