Re-instate the Flexible Workforce Development Fund - urgent call to Ministers
Colleges, businesses and trade unions have joined together to call on the Scottish Government to reinstate a vital training fund before it is deleted from the 2024/25 Budget.
The Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF) has previously provided businesses with access to training and upskilling for staff, delivered through colleges and other partners.
Potentially over 2,000 employers and 45,450 learners will miss out on training opportunities in 2024/25 if the £10million Fund is not reinstated.
The Institute of Directors Scotland, Federation of Small Businesses Scotland, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Scottish Hospitality Group, the Open University in Scotland, and individual businesses, charities, and trade unions, have all called on Ministers to think again.
Colleges are the main providers for organisations using the Fund to train workers in everything from digital skills and health and safety, to culinary skills and accounting.
Shona Struthers, Chief Executive at Colleges Scotland said: “Ministers still have time to rethink the Budget and bring back funding for the Flexible Workforce Development Fund.
“Scotland’s 24 colleges have delivered tens of thousands of training opportunities to firms and organisations using the Fund. It is entirely shortsighted to remove it for 2024/25 - and possibly forever - when it provides such good value for money and so many great opportunities for businesses.
“Colleges also benefit from the income from the Fund. With falling investment in colleges as it is, keeping the Fund in place would help with the overall sustainability of colleges who are in a really challenging position from the draft Budget.”
Stacey Dingwall, Head of Policy and External Affairs (Scotland) at the Federation of Small Businesses said: “While we appreciate the extremely challenging fiscal circumstances in which the draft budget has been set, we were disappointed not to see the Flexible Work Development Fund maintained.
“The feedback we receive from our members shows there is a clear need for support which makes skills development and investment opportunities more accessible to employers, generating benefit for employer and employee alike.”
Stephen Montgomery, Director of the Scottish Hospitality Group added: “With no financial support in regards to Business Rates being passed on by the Scottish Government to Hospitality in the budget statement, losing the FWDF is another sucker blow for many hospitality businesses who used and relied on this fund to develop career paths for their employees.
“It was seen for many employers as a great aid for recruitment and giving training for career progression, and it is essential that Scottish Government rethink this budget cut and reinstate it.”
Alan Buchan is operations manager at Bannockburn House Trust, and has used the Fund to train tour guides and other volunteers at the community trust. “It’s a huge blow for us. Previously we’ve used FWDF to upskill staff and volunteers who help us run the organisation with Forth Valley College delivering the training - everything from First Aid at work, and basic IT skills, and training for our tour guides so that visitors have a great experience.
“These skills are key to us operating effectively, which helps us generate income for our charity.
“Our ability as a community charity to invest in skills will be greatly reduced now - FWDF should be kept in place as otherwise it will be so hard to develop as an organisation. It was an essential part of how we trained people.”
Notes to Editors:
- The Flexible Workforce Development Fund has been removed from the Draft Budget for 2024/25. Scottish SME’s and companies who pay the Apprenticeship Levy are eligible to access the Fund.
- A recent evaluation underlines both the success of, and the incredibly good value for money for the public purse delivered through the Fund.
- The £10 million previously in place provides training opportunities to thousands of workers in Scotland. It is the only way some companies can upskill or retrain their workforce.
- The Draft Budget for 2024/25 is moving through the stages of parliamentary scrutiny having been presented to the Scottish Parliament on 19 December by Deputy First Minister Shona Robison.