The Student Immigration System in Scotland

Written evidence submitted by Alliance of Sector Skills Councils, Scotland

About the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils in Scotland

The Alliance of Sector Skills Councils in Scotland is tasked with representing, promoting and supporting the work of the 23 licensed Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) in Scotland (www.sscalliance.org). Together, SSCs articulate the voice of employers on skills issues and they are key partners in the delivery of a world class skills base for Scotland.

The Alliance in Scotland’s core purpose is to:

· Act as the collective voice of the SSCs;

· Promote understanding of the role of SSCs within the skills system across Scotland;

· Co-ordinate policy positions and strategic work on skills with stakeholders; and

· Help build the performance capability of the SSCs to ensure they continue to work effectively on the employer-driven skills agenda.

Scottish Government economic strategy

We note that the current Scottish Government’s economic strategy devotes particular attention to a number of key sectors with high growth potential and the capacity to boost productivity.

Sectors are defined as having the potential to make a significant contribution to increasing sustainable economic growth where:

· Scotland has distinctive capabilities and businesses with the potential to be internationally successful in areas of global demand.

· They currently account for a significant part of the Scottish economy and reflect the contribution of all areas of Scotland.

· Government intervention can make a significant difference to future success by facilitating or accelerating development in areas where the market alone cannot deliver the best outcome.

Across all sectors of the economy, the Alliance Scotland is focused on delivering a more demand-led skills system that meets the evolving needs of employers.

In this context, we believe that the key economic sectors identified by the Scottish Government’s economic strategy broadly correspond to those economic sectors with the greatest potential for employment growth, as confirmed by labour market intelligence undertaken by individual sector skills councils. At the same time, we also need to focus skills development on other sectors of high participation as this is where the bulk of jobs will come from.

To illustrate the challenges Scotland’s employers currently face (across all economic sectors) in identifying graduates with the relevant skills and experience they need, this submission sets out a brief overview of the key sectors identified in the Scottish Government’s economic strategy.

The seven key sectors identified in the Scottish Government’s economic strategy are:

· Creative industries

· Energy

· Financial & Business Services

· Food & Drink

· Life Sciences

· Tourism; and

· Universities

Creative industries

It is anticipated that this sector will generate 18,000 new jobs in Scotland between now and 2017. At the same time, a lack of experience and specialist skills are identified as the main causes of skills shortages within the sector at the current time. Employers in the sector are also concerned that higher education provision in this area tends to be led by student demand rather than their needs.

Energy

The renewable energy sector offers huge opportunities for future employment and economic growth. The offshore wind industry alone has the potential to generate 28,000 new jobs and a further 20,000 jobs through indirect and induced effects by 2020. Meanwhile, the onshore wind industry is already reporting shortages of suitably qualified project managers, electrical engineers and turbine technicians. Overall, 55% of all vacancies in the energy and utilities sector in Scotland are currently proving hard to fill. Employers anticipate ongoing skills shortages, particularly due to a shortage of STEM graduates. In this context, it is critically important to forecast skills needs for new and emerging technologies in this sector and to develop suitable National Occupational Standards to meet employer needs.

Financial & Business Services

Although rates of employment growth are likely to be modest for the foreseeable future, the financial services sector will remain an important part of the Scottish economy and there is a need to focus higher education provision on the development of key skills including technical and communication skills, as well as skills of professional judgement, ethics and risk management.

Elsewhere, asset management is expected to generate 27,000 new jobs by 2017, offering significant opportunities for graduates equipped with the right skills.

Food & Drink

Food and drink is the single largest manufacturing sector in Scotland, employing 49,000 people. While total employment in the sector is expected to contract, high replacement demand means the industry will need to recruit 16,000 new workers between now and 2017. It is expected that any job losses from the sector will be concentrated in low and intermediate-level jobs while demand for high-skilled jobs (managers and professionals) will actually increase.

Life sciences

Scotland’s life sciences sector employs 31,500 people, has a gross value added of £1.3 billion and is characterised by its highly skilled workforce. A key challenge currently faced by the industry is keeping graduates and junior managers in Scotland to pursue their careers.

Tourism

Scotland’s tourism industry is expected to grow by 14,800 jobs between now and 2017 with replacement demand requiring a further 79,600 jobs to be filled. Around 15,000 managers in the industry are currently not qualified to the minimum requirement, which is Level 3.

Universities

Scotland’s university sector is a key success story for the Scottish economy. At the same time, it faces some key future challenges. These include ensuring the skills profile of Scotland’s workforce is optimised to be globally competitive, fostering innovation and strengthening the relationship with Scottish business, as well as adapting to a workforce with fewer new entrants and greater need to retrain existing workers.

Conclusion

This brief overview of some of the key sectors of Scotland’s economy, as identified by the Scottish Government’s economic strategy, provides clear evidence of the huge opportunities on offer to Scottish graduates – whatever their origin – seeking to pursue a career in Scotland. At the same time, it also highlights some of the key challenges Scottish employers face in finding graduates with the relevant skills to be able to address the existing and emerging skills gaps and skills shortages they face.

Through reinforced links and cooperation with Scotland’s business community, Scotland’s universities are ideally placed to help address Scottish employers’ evolving skills needs. At the same time, employers want to know they can have access to the best talent the world has to offer.

In this context, we would view the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on the number of non-EU migrants entering the UK as students and able to study at Scottish colleges and universities as detrimental to the achievement of these objectives.

Instead, we would prefer to see a higher education strategy directly focused on producing the graduates Scottish employers need to be able to compete internationally.

In particular, by gearing those courses of study available more closely to the needs of Scottish employers, we will help ensure that a much larger proportion of students studying in Scotland are likely to stay in the country following completion of their studies with a view to pursuing a career.

We accept the need to ensure that home grown talent is equally well supported in accessing higher education. However, in maximising the economic contribution Scotland’s universities have to make, the key concern must be to ensure that an increasing number of Scottish graduates – irrespective of where they originally come from – are retained in Scotland pursuing fulfilling careers and actively contributing to Scotland’s economic prosperity.

We would contend that the best way of achieving this objective is to strengthen the links between Scottish business and the higher education sector and of significantly increasing the number of work-based training opportunities available to students as part of their course of study. This will give them direct exposure to Scottish employers and Scottish employment opportunities as well as making the skills they develop much more directly relevant to what those employers are ultimately looking for from new recruits.

March 2011