Introduction and Key Themes
UNISON is the largest union in Scotland’s public services and as such have an interest in all matters pertaining to the development of Scotland’s workforce. Specifically we represent members in Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and in Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Who are directly the subject of the consultation. We welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to this review.
UNISON has strongly welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to inclusive growth and related commitments to Fair Work, a Fairer Scotland, improving educational attainment, and action on poverty and inequality. UNISON therefore welcomes a consultation on how the agencies under review can enhance their contribution to those goals.
Given that proposals to advance several of these agendas remain at a very early stage, or currently lack detailed proposals or mechanisms, we would caution against radical restructuring of the agencies under review. This would likely be costly and would risk service disruption. The current priority given to policy alignment and collaboration can be achieved through revision and revitalisation of the governance and leadership of the agencies rather than changes to the location or positioning of operational staff.
We do support the idea of greater collaboration and alignment between agencies to advance key priorities (we would stress inclusion as being the most important). One method of achieving this could be closer governing relationships between the agencies.
Key themes in the UNISON analysis are:
- The greatest gap in the performance of the review agencies is action on inclusion.
- Skills are important but skills are not enough.
- Disadvantage is structural and centres around social class, gender, disability, race, health
- Agencies need to be clearer about the dynamics of exclusion –access barriers, precarious employment, barriers to progression, dismissal, barriers to re-entry after exclusion etc,
- Alignment towards greater inclusion cuts across governance, leadership, partnerships and service delivery
- Inclusion partners such as trade unions and authentic community voices lack vital access to and influence over agency priorities
- In addition to better partnership working between the review agencies there are important external partnerships that require investment and capacity building, including the link with trade unions; and,
- SDS is the agency with the strongest employee-focused role. All “customer-focused” should be retained in an integrated service with an enhanced emphasis on all-age services and an alignment to inclusion and equality.
Revised governance arrangements could give voice, ownership and influence to employees and disadvantaged groups. Such a change would bring engagement, accountability and momentum to the inclusive growth agenda.
In an ideal world school leavers with qualifications and enhanced Career Management Skills should be equipped to navigate the labour market and secure “good” jobs. In reality there are structural barriers that prevail despite the best efforts of the trainee or employee. Skills are not enough to ensure that workers find decent secure jobs. All workers are prey to wider economic forces, and some face particular disadvantage. We are clear that it is not sufficient for Government (at any level) to believe it’s labour market responsibilities end with the provision of trained workers to industry. We believe that it is the role of Government to intervene in the economy strategically to ensure not merely that industry has a supply of workers, but that the direction of the economy is such that there is an adequate supply of decent jobs.
For more see full response PDF