EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

Sector Skills Councils

United Kingdom
Phase: Anticipation
  • response to COVID-19
  • Advice
  • Matching/Networking
  • Provision of labour market information
  • Training
Last modified: 03 August, 2021
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Sector Skills Councils

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Sector Skills Councils


Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) are independent, employer-led organisations which seek to build a skills system that is driven by employer demand. SSCs apply to specific economic sectors. There are 13 Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) with the following industry coverage:

In addition, there are five Sector Skills Bodies (SSBs) with the following coverage:

  • ECITB: Engineering Construction Industry Training Board;
  • Enginuity: Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies;
  • Instructus: Business and Administration, customer service, enterprise and business support, human resources and recruitment, industrial relations, leadership and management, marketing and sales; 
  • Skills for Security: Security;
  • UKft: Fashion and Textiles.

The Sector Skills Councils and Bodies are supported by the Federation for Industry Sector Skills & Standards (FISSS) and funded through various means, including competitive government funding, contributions from member organisations and income from the services they provide, for example, consultancy services. 

Main characteristics

Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) have four key goals:

  • to reduce skills gaps and shortages;
  • to improve productivity, business and public service performance;
  • to increase opportunities to boost the skills and productivity of everyone in the sector's workforce; and
  • to improve learning supply through National Occupational Standards, apprenticeships, and further and higher education.

Each SSC agrees sector priorities and targets with its employers and partners to address five key goals:

  • identify and articular the sector's skills needs;
  • help develop more responsive provision to meet business needs;
  • provide the business case for skills;
  • engage employers in skill development; and
  • influence skill policy.

Activities involve:

  • analysing the skills and qualifications that both employers and employees want;
  • establishing the content of qualifications;
  • forecasting future skills required within the sector;
  • contributing to the development of National Occupational Standards;
  • design and approval of apprenticeship frameworks;
  • brokering sector skills agreements and creating sector qualification strategies.

Due to major funding changes introduced in 2012, there is no longer a comprehensive system of grant funding from government for SSCs and Sector Skills Bodies - their funding now largely depends on how successful they are in bidding applications to various government funds and contributions from member organisations.


  • National funds
  • Employer
  • Companies

Involved actors

National government
Legal framework; licensing of councils; funding.
Employer or employee organisations
Sector Skills Agreement must be signed by social partners; trade unions are legally entitled to a seat on the board of all SSCs.


There are 13 Sector Skills Councils and five Sector Skills Bodies based across all sectors of the UK economy. The SSCs and Sector Skills Bodies come under the umbrella of the Federation for Industry Sector Skills & Standards (FISSS).


SSCs work with a range of stakeholders; these include employers, trade unions and training providers. A holistic approach is taken towards training, which includes linking trainees to the workplace. Funding is provided from a variety of sources, including the UK government and member organisations. SSCs are dynamic organisations, with new SSCs being  established and existing ones being closed. SSCs also collaborate with one another, for example, ScreenSkills and Skills for Health worked together to develop training to help film and television production return safely to production after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.


There is no legal requirement for employers to train and there is a lack of awareness among employers about SSCs. Furthermore, not all industry sectors are covered by SSCs. In addition, accessibility to SSCs tends to be lower amongst SMEs than among larger firms. The results of the latest survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (2009), mainly involving micro enterprises, revealed that: 71% of the respondents had never heard of SSCs; 90% did not know which SSC was related to their business; among those who knew about SSC, only 10% felt that the Councils' programmes were responsive to the needs of micro and small businesses. 

It has been argued that the UK government has moved away from cooperation with SSCs and increasingly looked for other means of engaging with employers (see, for example Keep, 2016 discussing the government's relationship with SSCs in the context of Apprenticeships). 


Skills for Care and Development (SfCD) is the SCC for adult social care and children and young people’s services in UK. It is an employer-led umbrella organisation for employers which have responsibility for skills and workforce development in the sector. The SCC has developed National Occupational Standards (NOS) - these are standards of practice that people must achieve when working in certain social service roles and include knowledge and understanding linked to that role. SfCD partner organisations adhere to shared principles for learning and qualifications in the care sector across the UK.
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