Stimulating debate on current and emerging work-based learning issues in Scotland

Event summary    |     Key messages



Professor Ewart Keep

Debate on Vocational Education & Training and Work-based Learning

While most industries have real concerns around skills shortages in the workplace, there are also a lack of opportunities for young people who have not yet had the chance to build up experience. This paradox  means that apprenticeships, and all forms of work-based learning, have a vital role to play to address skills and opportunities gaps both now and in the future.

The Centre for Work-based Learning is a key player in stimulating debate on current and emerging skills issues in Scotland. To examine the contribution of education and apprenticeships to influencing  change in training and skills, we are holding a series of PRAXIS events which bring together senior colleagues from across Scottish public sector agencies, academia and the private sector.

We recently held our second event to give delegates the opportunity to hear the views of Professor Ewart Keep, director of SKOPE (Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance) and part of the education department at University of Oxford. SKOPE examines the evidence and policy around the acquisition and use of skills and knowledge.

PRAXIS 2 - key messages


At the event held at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Professor Keep focused on the issue of the choice between market or systems-based approaches to skills policy.

Within the UK there are very different approaches to skills policy, with England standing out in its pursuit of a market approach in recent years. Indeed, Australia is the only other country in the world to take  as explicit a market-based approach as England.

Professor Keep’s evidence showed that over the last 15 to 20 years there has been an increase in centralised policy making in England through nationalisation and de-localisation which has been followed by an increase in the commercialisation of Colleges and Universities.

He shared various research undertaken by SKOPE on the movement towards market-based models of funding and governance for skills delivery, while identifying the difficulties associated with this fundamental policy choice.

Australia has faced problems maintaining a high quality of further education (FE) provision and Professor Keep is concerned that England is facing similar challenges. The English system has gone from being devolved 40 years ago, with limited national government input, to completely centralised control as a market-based system has been adopted.

This approach has forced training providers to become more aggresively commercial and some have gone bankrupt, or exited the market, as a result of being unable to compete. Professor Keep explained that many FE college Principals have resigned following poor inspections and that competition has not necessarily driven innovation.

In contrast, Scotland has taken a much more localised approach which, in Professor Keep’s view, is proving more effective.

He summed up the forum by pointing out that it is important to know what kind of training and skills the job market is looking for and align policies with such expectations.

CWBL is proud to promote the importance of learning while earning and the worth of practical skills that are in demand from businesses. We hope that this will help ensure that Scotland can develop a strong supply of skilled people both now and in future generations.

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