5. Employability and Skills
The Scottish Government published its initial response to the third report by the Scottish Veterans Commissioner on Employability, Skills and Learning in March 2017; responding positively to all of the recommendations.
The Scottish Government firmly believes that our Armed Forces community is an asset to Scotland with those leaving the Armed Forces having many transferrable skills, such as team work, leadership and a sound work ethic. The Scottish Government has a strong track record of delivering support for veterans seeking employment, and has also taken a number of additional steps as a result of the Scottish Veterans Commissioner's Recommendations in his 2016 report ' Employability, Skills and Learning'.
5. 1 The Veterans Employability Strategic Group
In response to a key recommendation of the report, we have established and continue to support a Veterans Employability Strategic Group in Scotland. This provides a mechanism for consideration of strategic issues and brings together senior figures from a number of key organisations supporting veterans into employment.
The core membership of the group has now been established and is chaired by Mark Bibbey, Chief Executive of Poppyscotland and also includes representatives from Skills Development Scotland, Department for Work and Pensions, Careers Transition Partnership, Veterans Scotland and the Scottish Government.
The group was established in April this year, and even at this early stage has already:
- identified a number of areas where organisations who work to support veterans can collaborate more effectively to identify and tackle skills gaps and barriers to employment. For example, Skills Development Scotland and the Career Transition Partnership have already made changes to their ways of working to improve the experience of those using their services, and continue to work closely to ensure that pathways to information are working effectively.
- collaborated with the Ministry of Defence to obtain information from the Career Transition Partnership to improve understanding about where personnel settle and into which sectors and careers they move. This, combined with information on skills shortages, will help inform a more targeted approach from those who deliver support.
- set out a plan for additional qualitative research to identify barriers. The results of this future research will help shape thinking on the feasibility of a pilot approach.
- started discussions with the Ministry of Defence about transition to help ensure that Service leavers are ready for the civilian jobs they seek.
The Careers Transition Partnership is developing awareness raising materials for those still serving and the wider Service family. It is exploring how referral processes could be improved to ensure a seamless transition from the Armed Forces into training opportunities and good quality civilian employment.
The Strategic Group will continue to look at the Scottish Veteran Commissioner's recommendations as their work progresses; including on issues such as work placements, accreditation, and mapping of military skills into the civilian workplace.
5.2 The Scottish Veterans Fund
The Scottish Veterans Fund was developed and re-launched last year with Scottish Government investment of £360,000 over three years to 2019-20. For the first time, private sector partnership was secured to expand the Scottish Veterans Fund; with a three-year £240,000 contribution from Standard Life Aberdeen for projects focusing on employability. Taken together, the fund was boosted to £600,000 until 2019-20. This has resulted in over £1 million being awarded to organisations working in support of the veterans community and ex-services charities since its creation in 2008.
This year, 19 projects were awarded grants, some multi-year, following consideration by the new Scottish Veterans Fund panel, chaired by the Scottish Veterans Commissioner. These included specific projects focused on employability. For example: the Lothian Veterans Centre was awarded a multi-year grant to establish new pop-up cafes for veterans across the Lothians to improve social inclusion, employment and health and well-being, and to enable RFEA - the Forces Employment Charity - to recruit an employment adviser to assist veterans move into civilian life.
5.3 Initiatives to support employment
The Armed Forces community is able to access mainstream support when seeking employment. For example, Skills Development Scotland provides an all-age careers guidance service through the My World of Work (WoW) website. These programmes are signposted through our Veterans Portal on mygov.scot  .
There is also support available through the Employability Fund and through the newly devolved employment service for long-term unemployed; which provides a targeted employment service to meet the need of unemployed people, including former Service personnel.
However, it is recognised that specifically targeted work is also needed. The Scottish Government has therefore supported and developed specific initiatives to maximise fully the opportunities available to both veterans and employers: a number of initiatives are outlined below.
Working with employers
In 2015, the Scottish Veterans Minister, Keith Brown MSP, met HRH the Duke of Rothesay and gained his support to promote the valuable skills that veterans can bring to businesses in Scotland. This resulted in the Scottish Government partnering with Business in the Community Scotland, Salute My Job and Veterans Scotland to launch the " Supporting Veterans into Employment" Initiative in October 2016. The aim of the initiative was to encourage businesses of all sizes and sectors to recruit and benefit from employing veterans.
An employer's toolkit Capitalising on Military Talent  was then launched in March 2017 in collaboration with Business in the Community Scotland, the Scottish Veterans Employment and Training Service, SaluteMyJob and employers. The toolkit is designed to encourage employers who may not have previously considered employing veterans to do so; it includes excellent best practice examples and practical tips and sets out how employers can get involved.
The toolkit, which has received positive feedback and a high number of online visits, has been distributed widely through government, to our agencies and business stakeholders.
Community Jobs Scotland
The Scottish Government provided funding of up to £6.1 million in 2017/18 for Phase 7 of Community Jobs Scotland ( CJS). This programme aims to support up to 700 job training opportunities lasting up to 12 months with third sector employers, including opportunities for Early Service Leavers and other veterans. From an initial 50 places available to Early Service Leavers in 2015, all 700 places are now open to applications from Early Service Leavers and veterans.
Scotland's Employer Recruitment Incentive ( SERI)
Early Service Leavers and Armed Forces veterans, as well as the partners of current or former Armed Forces personnel aged 16-29, are eligible for support through Scotland's Employer Recruitment Incentive ( SERI). SERI has a focus on a number of vulnerable groups and offers employers up to £4,000 over the course of the first 12 months of employment, supplemented by £500 if the employer pays the participant the living wage. Since 2015/16, SERI has supported 10 Early Service Leavers and former Armed Forces personnel; 3 in employment and the others on Modern Apprenticeships.
Public sector jobs
Recent work has been undertaken by NHS National Education Scotland to develop the NHSScotland Careers website. This provides information on all careers in NHSScotland. The Scottish Government is exploring developing website content specifically targeted at veterans and is looking to develop case studies of veterans currently employed within the NHS to highlight best practice and as a means of promoting new career opportunities for veterans transitioning to civilian life. Additionally, the Golden Jubilee National Health Board works extensively with both veterans and reservists pro-actively to recruit former Service personnel, many of whom have a range of transferable skills which are highly adaptable to careers in NHS settings.
Scottish Government Jobs
The Scottish Government has met representatives from Police Scotland to learn from its experience about how best to engage with recruiting managers. We are considering how we can learn from best practice and have made some early changes; such as amending our internal recruitment guidance to raise awareness of veterans within the workforce.
Supporting Early / Young Service Leavers
Opportunities for All  is the Scottish Government's commitment to an offer of a place in further learning or training for those not participating in learning, training or employment. It ensures that young people aged 16-19 are supported to plan for further learning, training and employment. However the commitment is flexible for young people between the ages of 16-29 who are furthest from the labour market, including Early Service Leavers, by ensuring access to programmes such as Community Jobs Scotland  .
Skills Development Scotland works with Local Authorities and other organisations to re-engage young people and to support them into accessing the correct Careers Information, Advice and Guidance ( CIAG) and further training and learning; to allow development and to advance their skills set.
A national network of employer led Developing the Young Workforce ( DYW) Regional Groups  has been established in 21 regions across Scotland to provide leadership, a single point of contact and support to facilitate engagement between employers and education to improve the employment opportunities for young people. In 2017/18 the Scottish Government will work with the network of Regional Groups to ensure they understand the needs of young Service leavers and to explore opportunities to improve their employment outcomes; this work is closely aligned to the Veterans Employability Strategic Group.
Modern Apprenticeship week is held annually in Scotland and is used to showcase to employers and to those interested in Apprenticeships what is on offer across the employment spectrum in Scotland. Skills Development Scotland will include content for Service leavers and veterans in Modern Apprenticeship week, starting with the next event in March 2018.
In addition, as part of the work Skills Development Scotland and the Careers Transition Partnership is undertaking, Modern Apprenticeships will be promoted to Early Service Leavers, veterans and their families. This will include awareness of Apprenticeships.scot  which is Skills Development Scotland's 'go to' site on all matters relating to Foundation, Modern and Graduate Level Apprenticeships. Awareness training for Careers Transition Partnership staff on Apprenticeships will also be offered.
The Scottish Government also recently published a guide: 'Seven things you need to know about Scottish Apprenticeships  ' to help employers develop their workforce for the future.
Skills Development Scotland delivers work experience through the Certificate of Work Readiness, ( CWR); an employer endorsed work experience programme which is often used as a pathway into Modern Apprenticeships. It gives young people a recognisable qualification to show employers they have relevant experience for the workplace.
Skills Development Scotland and the Careers Transition Partnership are also working together to determine how CWR can be best utilised by Early Service Leavers, veterans and their families. The Veterans Employability Strategic Group will continue to consider work relating to work placements.
5.4 Colleges and Universities
Scottish Government officials and College Development Network ( CDN) representatives have begun discussing how to engage with the veterans community more closely to promote the benefits of, and opportunities for, college education. In September 2017, CDN met representatives of the Armed Forces in Scotland, colleagues from across the sector and the Scottish Funding Council to consider opportunities to increase veteran participation in further and higher education in Scotland.
Scottish Government officials continue to work with Colleges Scotland and CDN colleagues to support the delivery of actions arising from this meeting; in order to improve the support available to Early Service Leavers and veterans seeking to attend college.
Following the multi-sector meeting in September 2017, an expert group on veterans will now be formed to help address the best way of improving specific information and addressing gaps in guidance. There is also great support to develop a champions network, and the expert group will consider the most useful way to achieve this.
Flexible Workforce Development Fund Pilot
The Flexible Workforce Development Fund pilot was launched in the first week of September 2017. It benefits employers by providing college routes to help train members of their organisation. Within this and in line with Scottish Government priorities, employers are encouraged to give due consideration to specific groups such as veterans and Early Service Leavers.
Access and Articulation
Work is underway to improve information for prospective students from the Armed Forces community. The Student Awards Agency Scotland ( SAAS) has reviewed its existing Armed Forces Guidance  as part of its annual ' Change of Session' activities. The content of the guide relates specifically to SAAS eligibility criteria and the exceptions applicable to members of the Armed Forces and their families. An updated version of the guide was made available on the SAAS website in April 2017 in advance of the 2017-2018 academic session.
Work is also underway to look at improving access. For example from academic year 2017-18 onwards, the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) will begin to collect data in the college sector about veterans, which will be available at the end of 2018.
The SFC is also applying to the Higher Education Statistics Agency ( HESA) to enable collection of data about veterans in the university sector. Once this data is in place, SFC will be able to consider veterans' representation, success rates, and how many are supported by articulation and other routes such as the Scottish Widening Access Programme ( SWAP), to enable interventions to be put in place through the Outcome Agreement process as required.
In addition, SFC is currently analysing the results of a questionnaire about identifying and supporting 'at risk' groups. The term 'at risk' refers to any group which is at risk of being under-represented in either sector and/or who is at risk of achieving lower outcomes than their peers. This includes veterans and children of Armed Forces families. It is hoped that the results will help identify current practice in colleges and universities for veterans to inform future policy. This analysis will be presented to the SFC Access and Inclusion Committee in November and thereafter published on the SFC website.
Literacy and numeracy
Responsibility for improving literacy and numeracy lies with many of our partners including Education Scotland, Colleges and Local Authorities. In addition, Education Scotland and Skills Development Scotland are working together to refresh the Big Plus Website  , which aims to promote the free help available to assist with reading, writing and using numbers.