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25 Oct 2021

Funding 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 inclusive learning opportunities for their existing workforce. The full suite of guidance is available on the Scottish Funding Council website and a helpful summary for early years, social care and social work employers is given below.

Social service workers can access funded training or qualifications which can lead to career progression and help in the development of crucial new skills. This includes the types of skills needed more than ever as care services pursue recovery while dealing with the lasting impacts of 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 2021-2022 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 to 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. In its guidance, the Scottish Funding Council states 'The FWDF may be particularly beneficial in addressing skills gaps and training needs of the older workforce and/or employees with one or more protected characteristics listed in section 4 of the Equality Act, eg women, disabled people, black and minority ethnic people'.
  • Colleges, training providers and The Open University should adopt the Fair Work First criteria as employers in their own right and should also make sure that as employers they engage with through the FWDF and are committed to advancing these criteria.
  • Training which is credit rated and certificated should be prioritised, for example SVQs and personal development awards (PDA). 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 National Transition Training Fund, 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

Like last year, £5 million has been 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.

Here is the full guidance from Scottish Funding Council for 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.

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.

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. The FWDF will allow employers to access OU courses at SCQF level 10 and above for their employees.

Suzanne McQuade, Business Relationships Manager, with the OU 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.’

The OU advise that they are developing their portfolio of courses for SMEs so more courses may become available, including those in health and social care.

You can see which courses are currently available on the OU website

Important dates for SMEs*

Training
contractually agreed

Training
started

Training
delivered and completed

by 31 July 2021

by 31 August 2021

by 31 December 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.

Like last year, £15 million has been allocated for levy-paying employers. This includes £13 million available for college provision and £2 million available for independent training provider provision. 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.

Here is the full guidance from Scottish Funding Council for levy-paying organisations.

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.*

*The supply-chain companies involved should not be Levy-payers in their own right or accessing the FWDF as an SME.

Applying for training to be delivered by colleges

You can contact colleges to find out about the suite of training provision they have made available in support of the FWDF. This training provision should be informed by the local labour market, regional skills assessments and your needs as an employer. If a college cannot offer the training you require you can look to the guidance below about applying to an independent training provider instead.

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

Applying for training to be delivered by independent training providers

You can find out more about applying to a training provider in the Scottish Funding Council guidance (above) or the Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Our Skills Force website.

It is expected that you first try to arrange the training with colleges using the above route. If you are not sure if you are eligible for this route you can discuss your circumstances with SDS and explain why the learning you require would be best delivered by a training provider.

Key dates

Training contractually agreed

Training started

Training delivered and completed

by 31 July 2022

by 31 August 2022

by 31 December 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. They are also aware that ongoing COVID-19 related social distancing restrictions may impact on delivery timeframes.

For training delivered by independent training providers, SDS advise that the training can’t start before you receive, sign and return the grant award letter so you will need to consider this within your timeframe. 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