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01 Feb 2021

Your learning

The flexible workforce development fund: guidance for social service employers in Scotland

The flexible workforce development fund (FWDF) supports Scottish employers to provide new learning opportunities for their existing workforce.

Social service workers can access funded training or qualifications which can lead to career progression and help in the development of crucial new skills, such as those needed more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article contains two types of guidance which you should choose from.

  1. Guidance for small to medium sized organisations (SMEs) with under 250 employees, for learning delivered by colleges or The Open University.
  2. Guidance for employers who pay the UK Government Apprenticeship Levy, for learning delivered by colleges or independent training providers.

This article provides guidance about the £20 million fund provided for the 2020-2021 academic year. Please see guidance for each part of the fund for information about when training must be arranged and when it must be completed.

General points

  • The fund can help employers promote equality of opportunity and make sure workers have the right support to learn and progress. Employers should consider how learning can be arranged in a way which recognises and reduces barriers faced by particular individuals or groups in their workforce. For example, guidance from the Scottish Funding Council highlights ‘women workers, disabled workers, black and minority ethnic workers, and other groups protected under the Equality Act 2010’.
  • Training which is credit rated and certificated should be prioritised, for example SVQs and personal development awards (PDA). For training which is arranged with colleges, we have confirmed with the Scottish Funding Council that qualifications which can be used towards meeting SSSC registration requirements are eligible for funding.
  • An employer’s allocation of funding can be used as part-payment of a programme of training.
  • Employers and social service workers can continue to access other funding sources including modern apprenticeship funding, the Part Time Fee Grant or Individual Training Accounts. However, funding cannot be combined to pay towards a programme of learning arranged through FWDF.
  • Employers may be eligible for more than one funding route (levy-payer and SME) however, they must choose a route and submit only one application.

John McVeigh, SVQ coordinator and lecturer, shares his experience of the fund. 

‘At City of Glasgow College we’ve been supporting providers to access the fund, including support to gather the elements needed to make a successful application. Providers are allocated a designated Business Development Officer who works with them to discuss their training needs and create a bespoke, costed training plan.

‘Training can be existing, scheduled courses or bespoke, contextualised training that is created for that client by college staff. We have used the fund to provide dementia awareness, mental health awareness and manual handling training. We have also used it for SVQs (for example, SVQ Social Services and Healthcare) which can enable workers to meet SSSC registration requirements. We’ve also looked at plans to use the fund for the PDA in Health and Social Care Supervision.’ 

1. Guidance for small to medium sized organisations (SMEs) with under 250 employees, for learning delivered by colleges or The Open University

£5 million was allocated this academic year to help smaller employers provide upskilling and reskilling opportunities to their existing workforce. This is particularly welcome within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen social service employers and workers develop new, innovative ways of working and adapt to increased use of technology and enhanced levels of responsibility. Many social service providers are SMEs.

Key information

SMEs:

  • can access up to £5,000 of training delivered by colleges or The Open University in Scotland
  • are advised to make an application as soon as possible as access to the fund will be on a first come first served basis.

Depending on their requirements, SME employers can choose to arrange learning with a college or with the Open University.

Colleges

If arranging learning with a college, the SME will work with the college to complete an application which includes an assessment of their skills needs. Colleges will have a range of courses available to help inform this process, designed in line with national priorities and previous work with SMEs in their local area.

To find out more you should read this guidance (issued 1 December 2020).

You can find a list of all colleges in Scotland here.

The Open University

The Open University (OU) is Scotland’s largest provider of part-time education with over 50 years’ experience of providing innovative distance learning. This year, the FWDF will allow employers to access OU courses (at SCQF level 10 and above) for their employees.

Suzanne McQuade, Business Relationships Manager, The Open University in Scotland said:

‘Training options available from The OU will focus on Scotland’s skills priorities: health and social care, leadership and business, digital and IT, and the green economy with a range of selected courses at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 10 - undergraduate - or SCQF Level 11 - postgraduate - or through industry recognised provision.’

More details are available at www.open.ac.uk/business/flexible-workforce-development-fund

The Open University advise that they are developing their portfolio of courses for SMEs so more courses may become available.

Important dates for SMEs*

Training
contractually agreed

Training
started

Training
delivered and completed

by 31 July 2021

by 31 August 2021

by 31 March 2022

* The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) advise that when there are exceptional or extenuating circumstances to the start of training and/or delivery and completion dates (eg SVQ training), colleges or The Open University in Scotland should contact the SFC to discuss any possible revision to these deadlines.

2. Guidance for employers who pay the UK Government Apprenticeship Levy, for learning delivered by colleges or independent training providers.

£15 million was allocated this year for levy-paying employers. This includes £2million which for the first time can support employers to access learning with an independent training provider where it is not possible to arrange this learning with a college. The fund was originally introduced in direct response to feedback from the Scottish Government’s consultation on the introduction of the UK Government Apprenticeship Levy.

Please note, the application process and key dates differ according to which type of learning provider is engaged.

Key information

Levy-paying employers can:

  • access training up to the value of £15,000
  • nominate up to two supply chain companies (for example care services they commission) to receive some or all of their allocation
  • include employees of supply chain companies in training they arrange.

If you want to apply for learning with a college you should use this guidance (issued 21 October 2020).

If you want to apply for learning with a training provider you should use this guidance (issued December 2020) from Skills Development Scotland (SDS).
A shorter guide and further resources are also available here.
Please note, this option may be more suitable for shorter specialist programmes which are guaranteed to complete by the stated date (see below). If you are not sure if you are eligible you should discuss your circumstances with SDS and explain why the learning you require would be best delivered by a training provider.

Key dates for levy-paying employers arranging training with colleges*

Training contractually agreed

Training started

Training delivered and completed

by 31 July 2021

by 31 August 2021

by 31 March 2022

*The Scottish Funding Council advise that where there are exceptional or extenuating circumstances (eg delivery of SVQ training) colleges should contact SFC to discuss any possible revision to these deadlines.

Key dates for levy-paying employers arranging training with independent training providers*

Training contractually agreed

Training started

Training completed, invoiced and paid for

by 31 July 2021

by 31 August 2021

by 30 September 2021

* SDS advise that the training can’t start before you receive, sign and return the grant award letter. Afterwards you will need to send the invoice to SDS with supporting documents to show the training has been completed and SDS will pay the invoice.

Contact information

Sandra Wilson
Communications Officer
Scottish Social Services Council
communications@sssc.uk.com