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23 June 2023

SDS publishes Annual Review 2022-23

Our organisation

Looking back over 2022-23, the Review details how SDS is contributing towards Scotland’s economic recovery and the creation of a more prosperous, greener, fairer society. 

“We recognise that our achievements are only possible thanks to the hard work and dedication of our colleagues, Board members, trade union partners and others, who consistently uphold our values and keep the customer at the heart of all we do.

“My sincere thanks go to all SDS colleagues for their agility, resilience and commitment to the people and businesses of Scotland.

“For colleagues in particular, it was heartening to see their exceptional efforts recognised with the achievement of the Platinum Investors in People Award.”

Frank Mitchell
SDS Chair

Frank Mitchell Sds001

You can read our Annual Review 2022-23 in full. Alternatively, a summary of key achievements can be found below. 

Reflecting on 2022-23 

Goal 1: Industry focussed skills 

Lifelong learning in and for the workplace is integral to delivering the skills that the economy needs. SDS’s work under this strategic goal comprises our direct delivery of training, upskilling and reskilling opportunities to individuals in Scotland, including Modern Apprenticeships (MAs). This aims to ensure that people in Scotland have and continue to develop skills which are relevant to the Scottish economy. Achievements included:

  • An increase in MA starts to 25,447, with 11,775 apprenticeship opportunities being advertised via, a significantly higher number than last year.
  • In-training apprentice numbers reaching their highest ever level, at around 39,000 (as of end of March 2023).
  • An increase in MA participation across equality groups. Our 2023 Equality Mainstreaming Report describes our progression against the ambitious equality outcomes we set in 2021.
  • Approval of 14,822 Individual Training Account (ITA) applications.
  • Approval of 145 Adopt an Apprentice applications to allow people to continue their apprenticeship with a new employer following redundancy.

Goal 2: Inclusive Talent Pool

SDS is committed to helping people to navigate the changing world of work

throughout their lives so they can achieve rewarding careers. Fundamental to achieving this goal is the delivery of all-age, person-centred, and experiential career information, advice, and guidance (CIAG) service. This year, we continued to support our customers to develop the skills and habits they need to navigate their careers, working to address known barriers to participation so that individuals can access the learning and jobs they choose. This included:

  • More than 230,000 engagements with school pupils P7-S6.
  • Almost 14,000 pupils engaging in interactive, experiential learning through My World of Work, Live!
  • 4,122 pupils starting Foundation Apprenticeships at SCQF (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework) Levels 4-6. 
  • Almost 35,000 people accessing our universal CIAG service for adults.
  • 68% of those supported by the Next Steps programme progressing into education, training, or employment, with 65% progressing into education, training or employment sustained that destination for at least six months.
  • Support for 858 women to re-enter the labour market through the Women Returners programme.
  • 1,758 individuals receiving a combined 3,217 CIAG engagements through our Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) service.

Goal 3: Invested Employers

Meaningful and effective engagement with employers of all sizes, and their representative bodies, is critical to the achievement of all our strategic goals. We collaborate extensively to encourage employer involvement in the development and delivery of Scotland’s skills system, and to deliver efficient and effective employer services. Through doing so, we aim to create more and better learning and employment opportunities for people. 98% of employers surveyed in December 2022 were satisfied with the service provided by SDS, and likely to recommend SDS to other employers. Key work included:

  • Through Team Scotland activities, the creation of 1,800 jobs, and an additional 2,314 jobs safeguarded. 188 businesses were supported to either locate for the first time or expand operations in Scotland (up from 121 in 2021/22).
  • 263 SMEs supported by the Skills for Growth Team, including 75 who were supported to produce a new People and Skills Action Plan to help meet their future skills needs.
  • Completion of 187 work-based learning development projects, each working with large employers to expand their participation in Scottish Apprenticeships or industry school engagement.
  • Support for 439 unique large employers in Scotland to recognise the benefits of work-based learning opportunities for their organisation.

Goal 4: Intelligence-led System 

Scotland needs a career, learning and skills ecosystem which has the insight and agility to adapt in response to the ever-changing external environment and realities of work. Our work towards this goal includes extensive collaboration to help inform and shape the design and delivery of career and skills interventions, ensuring that provision increasingly meets the needs of Scotland’s people, businesses, and economy. Highlights this year included:

  • Updating our 23 Regional and 16 Sectoral Skills Assessments, along with the monthly refresh of our Data Matrix and the monthly publication of our monthly Economy, People and Skills report.
  • Extensive engagement with Scottish Government and other stakeholders to provide expertise and insight to education and skills reform work, including the Independent Review of the Skills System and of Qualifications and Assessment.
  • The launch of a Tourism and Hospitality Staff Induction Toolkit in partnership with the Scottish Tourism Alliance.
  • After extensive development with partners, the publication of the Ayrshire Regional Skills Investment Plan.
  • The publication of the Final Report of the Career Review, entitled ‘Skills and experiences to grow and succeed in a rapidly changing world’ in March 2023.

Goal 5: Impactful Organisation

SDS has always sought to lead by example, demonstrating the organisational behaviours we understand that lead to high performing workplaces and sustaining efforts to build our organisational resilience, efficacy and capability. By focusing on the outcomes and experiences of both our customers and colleagues, we seek to ensure that we can attract and retain the people we need to deliver impactful services and value for money. Highlights included:

  • Achievement of Platinum Investors in People (IiP) accreditation in February 2023. This is the highest standard that can be achieved from IiP and is currently held by only 6% of accredited organisations.
  • Reducing our carbon footprint by 37% in 2022/23 compared with the 2019/20 baseline – ahead of the 20% reduction required to be on track for our 2030 emissions target.
  • Implementation of our new Strategic Plan in a period of budgetary constraint, alongside the launch of a new ‘Transform 27’ programme in early March, designed to help engage all colleagues in a transition to a new, sustainable operating model by 2027.
  • Attracting and developing young talent, with 95% of participants on our Young Talent programme going on to positive destinations.