A Fairer Economy: Enabling Scotland’s skills for the future
Delivering a fairer, prosperous economy is a priority for the Scottish Government. And I know that it is a priority for businesses too. To achieve this, we want a fairer labour market and to continue to enhance the skills of our workforce. This year will see us bringing forward a range of measures designed to further upskill our workers and to help Scotland be the best performing nation possible.
While Scotland’s labour market is working well for many people, those who face complex and challenging circumstances – particularly disabled people – still find it harder to access and stay in employment. As a government, we want to do everything in our power to bring about positive change on this and ultimately ensure that everybody who can and wants to work has the opportunity to do so.
Fair work is central to this, and by that I mean employment that offers more security, decent pay and a greater voice for workers in the companies whose wealth they help to create. I truly believe that fair work is not only good for everyone but that it drives innovation and productivity.
It goes without saying that 2018 saw real progress in using Scotland’s newly devolved powers. In particular, our devolved employment support service, Fair Start Scotland, launched in April and is already helping almost 5,000 people who want to find work and stay in work.
Fair Start Scotland is aimed at providing support to individuals who are furthest removed from the labour market. Between now and 2023, this service aims to support a minimum of 38,000 people across Scotland with personalised support as well as help businesses find the skilled and committed employees they need to thrive.
It’s especially important for me that our service has been designed nationally and delivered locally ensuring that it is tailored to the needs of individuals and local communities. Not only does this mean that the standard of service provision is consistent across the country but it helps ensure that the service reflects the needs of the local economy and employers.
Beyond that, the fact that it is voluntary means that people can choose to participate, rather than being driven by the fear of sanctions – and this combined with a clear emphasis on treating people with fairness, dignity and respect is something I know people value from the conversations I have with participants up and down the country. We know that some individuals need a bit more support to help them into employment. Fair Start Scotland is designed to provide that support so that once people are in work, crucially, we help them to stay in work. This positive start means that we are developing a sound basis for learning and continuous improvement to Scotland’s new employment support service.
But we cannot rest on our laurels – there is more to be done and we are committed to making that happen. We are now working to deliver closer alignment and integration of the wider range of Scottish Government employability support services, and those of our delivery partners – creating the conditions for better integration and alignment of how services are funded and delivered. This includes joining up with health, housing, justice and other areas to provide clearer pathways to sustainable employment.
In 2019, these efforts are further supported by a new partnership working agreement with Scotland’s Local Authorities, cementing our shared ambition to work towards an employability system which is better aligned and integrated and which works for everyone. We have also set out ambitious plans to halve the disability employment gap in the publication “A Fairer Scotland For Disabled People: Employment Action Plan”. Amongst other initiatives, this year will see us continuing to work to close the gender pay gap, publishing a Future Skills Action Plan and developing Scotland as a world-leading Fair Work Nation.
Delivering on these ambitions will help ensure that Scotland’s employment rate remains amongst the highest on record and that our unemployment rate remains low – these are ambitions that I’m proud to be part of.