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Our latest annual review, published today, illustrates our progress throughout 2019/20, what we have achieved against the first year of our 2019-22 Strategic Plan and highlights our achievement of key targets for the operating year. 

It also sets out and provides some detail on the rapid changes we’ve implemented as COVID-19 emerged towards the end of 2019/20 

You can read our Annual Review 2019/20 in full in either English or Gaelic. 

Alternatively, an overview of some of our key achievements this year: 

We significantly expanded our work-based learning offer, focusing heavily on increasing the availability of Foundation Apprenticeships (FA) in schools and expanding Modern Apprenticeship (MA) and Graduate Apprenticeship (GA) opportunities in the workplace. Through this work we exceed our 2019/20 target of 29,000 apprenticeship starts with 27,875 MA starts and 1,160 GA starts in cohort 3 (2019).

FA opportunities were taken up by 3,445 school pupils from 325 schools, with 91% of FAs in training saying they would recommend Foundation Apprenticeships to a friend or family member.  

Our careers colleagues supported more than 186,956 school pupils to develop Career Management Skills, whilst there were 2.6 million users of My World of Work, our award-winning career information, advice and guidance web service. 93% of our careers services reviewed by Education Scotland scored good or above in 2019/20 

Our ambitions to create a more joined-up, dynamic and inclusive skills system saw significant progress in 2019/20 through the establishment of a joint Skills Alignment Directorate between SDS and the Scottish Funding Council.  

We engaged extensively with regional and local partners to ensure skills issues are understood and acted on, including publication of the South of Scotland Regional Skills Investment Plan and the Rural Skills Action Plan for Scotland. 

We supported key sectors to develop responsive initiatives – including the award-winning Fast Track financial services pilot course. We engaged 450 large companies, helping them realise the benefits of increased work-based learning within their organisations and provided direct support to 171 small medium enterprises, helping them to recruit and develop through Skills for Growth. 

As an organisation, we were proud to be awarded the Top Scottish employer in the Stonewall workplace equality index, and joint 12th in the UK. We also achieved Gold Investors in People accreditation, having already achieved Gold Investors in Young People accreditation in 2018. 

Our Annual Accounts for 2019/20 enjoyed an unqualified audit and report a £5 million contribution towards Scottish Government annual efficiency savings while demonstrating a year-on-year increase in our operational delivery.

SDS Chief Executive, Damien Yeates, said: “Our achievements in 2019/20 show that we continue to be committed to making skills work for Scotland.  

"Over the past 12 months, we’ve have made significant strides towards achieving our ambitions, and have worked hard to drive productivity and inclusive growth through the investment in skills. Our Annual Review also highlights how we have responded rapidly to new customer and business needs as we navigate the impact of COVID-19. 

In the year ahead, as we continue to operate in what is sure to be a challenging environment due to the pandemic, we will continue to work closely with our partners to build a strong, inclusive and resilient economy for Scotland.” 

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