This indicator measures the proportion of 16-19 year olds participating in education, training or employment over the whole year (1st April-31st March).

The Annual Participation Measure is published by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and uses the shared data set held by SDS on their Customer Support System (CSS).  The headline participation status (participating, not participating and unconfirmed) is based on the classification with the highest number of days over the year.  Participation is defined as: School pupil, Further Education; Higher Education; Modern Apprenticeship; Full-Time Employment; Part-Time Employment; Self-Employed; Data Import – Employed, Employability Fund Stages 2-4; Activity Agreements (2016-2019); Other Formal Training; Personal/ Skills Development; and Voluntary Work.

The indicator provides a measure of the status of the wider 16-19 cohort – not just those who have left school.  This helps to inform policy, planning and service delivery.


The Participation Measure data set is the shared status data for young people aged 16-19 held on the SDS CSS. Partners who input to the shared data set are SDS Corporate Training System, Local Authorities, Schools, Colleges, Student Awards Agency Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council and Department for Work and Pensions. Central to the creation of the shared dataset is the sharing of information to allow partners to identify what young people are doing in ‘real time’ throughout their 16-19 journeys. It also allows SDS and partners to improve service delivery and provide a more tailored offer, helping to identify the right time to engage with customers.

The SDS participation measure publication and further background information on the measure is available here.


The headline participation status is based on the classification with the highest number of days over the year.  Participation is defined as: School pupil, Further Education; Higher Education; Modern Apprenticeship; Full-Time Employment; Part-Time Employment; Self-Employed; Data Import – Employed, Employability Fund Stages 2-4; Activity Agreements (2016-2019); Other Formal Training; Personal/ Skills Development; and Voluntary Work.  More widely, these are defined as:

Education Group

School Pupil

Relates to individuals reported on the roll of a local authority or grant-aided secondary or special school. It also includes young people who are receiving education through local authority purchased places at specialist provision, residential schools, those attending college or other providers but are on a school roll. In line with “Getting it Right for Every Child” (GIRFEC), the local authority should ensure each school maintains an accurate pupil roll. They should ensure their management information system is updated with information related to when a young person is planning to or has actually left school and this will be notified to SDS through regular data sharing.

Higher Education

Relates to individuals enrolled at a University, Higher Education Institution or College to follow a course of study at SCQF level 7 or above. This includes degree courses, courses for the education and training of teachers, higher level courses for professional qualification and Higher National Certificate / Diploma or equivalent. The individual could be enrolled on a Full-Time, Part-Time or distance learning basis.

Further Education

Those enrolled at college or other provider and studying below SCQF level 7, e.g. National Qualifications, Access courses, portfolio courses, portfolio preparation, pre-vocational courses and special programmes. The individual could be enrolled on a Full-Time, Part-Time or distance learning basis.  Where an individual is attending college but they remain on the roll of a school, they will be recorded within the school pupil status.

Employment Group

Employment (full-time & part-time) and Self-Employment

Covers all individuals who consider themselves to be employed through undertaking paid work. This is based on self-classification adopted by the Labour Force Survey. Individuals will be considered to be working full-time if they undertake paid work 16 hours or more per week and part-time for under 16 hours per week. Full-time employment also includes individuals undertaking a Graduate Apprenticeship.

Self Employed is defined as an individual who is earning a living by working independently of an employer, either freelance or by running their own business including anyone working as a professional athlete.

Included in the employment group are those who are undertaking an internship, where a young person has completed an agreed course and is working for a set period in an organisation to enhance their skills and knowledge through practical work experience and for which the young person should be paid.

Data Import – Employed

This status was introduced in late summer 2021 and was used for the first time in the APM in 2022.  Through data sharing SDS will receive information that an individual is in employment but we do not receive information about the hours worked.  In these circumstances we are unable to allocate the status to the Full-Time or Part-Time employment.  For example, DWP share data that identifies an individual is claiming Universal Credit but has earnings as part of their claim, in these circumstances the individual will have a Data Import - Employed status created.

Modern Apprenticeship

Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) provide individuals with the opportunity to secure industry-recognised qualifications while earning a wage.  It relates to individuals undertaking a modern apprenticeship where there is a public funding contribution administered by SDS on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Modern Apprenticeship statistics related to the performance of our MA programme are published by SDS as Official Statistics using data derived from the FIPS database. CSS has it own reporting rules which means the data shown here may not match the official account derived from FIPS. There is a transfer of data from FIPS to CSS and the data goes through a series of business rules to update statuses on CSS. Also a modern apprenticeship status can be created on CSS by data shared from local authorities and by SDS advisers based on information received from another source e.g.  individuals, parents, family members and local authorities without the corresponding data being held in FIPS.  There is cleansing activity on CSS that updates an MA status to Full-Time employment if a corresponding record is not found on FIPS but this is only after a set period of time.  Therefore the data shown here should be used with caution and is provided as a guide only, please refer to the Modern Apprenticeship statistics for official figures.

Training and Other Personal Development Group

Employability Fund (Reported between 2016 and 2022)

Following an announcement from the Scottish Government in October 2021, the Employability Fund ceased in March 2022 with associated funding transferred to local authorities in line with No One Left Behind Strategy.

The Employability Fund aimed to support activity to help people to develop the skills needed to secure a job or progress to more advanced forms of training.  The Employability Fund supported participants and activity that mapped to stages 2 to 4 of the Strategic Skills and employability pipeline (SSP).

Activity Agreements (Not reported from 2020 onwards)

“No One Left Behind: Next Steps for Employability Support in Scotland”, outlined the Scottish Government’s plan to deliver more effective and joined-up employability support across Scotland.  The Scottish Government carried out a review of employability programmes they funded directly, and from April 2019, a new local employability delivery model managed collaboratively between Scottish Government and Local Government was introduced.  The integration of funding streams, as part of the ongoing implementation of No One Left Behind, means that although local authorities will provide the same type of support and opportunities for young adults, this activity will no longer be funded under the banner of ‘Activity Agreements’.  It means from 2019-20 onwards this category will no longer be reported, and all activity funded via No One Left Behind will be included in the Other Formal Training category.

Other Formal Training

The integration of funding streams, as part of the ongoing implementation of No One Left Behind (NOLB), means that all young adults supported by local authorities who are undertaking a learning agreement/action plan are recorded within this category.  In addition, provision funded via the Young Person’s Guarantee and DWP Kickstart will be included in this status.

It also includes young adults on third sector funded training programmes that have a formal attendance arrangement and normally trainees will be in receipt of a training allowance or grant. 

In addition, those receiving a scholarship or sponsorship to concentrate on vocational/sporting activity will be included here. This status would only include individuals who have a non-employed status, but the individual is receiving external funding to participate in the activity. 

Community Jobs Scotland, an employability programme delivered by SCVO which works with voluntary sector employers to create job opportunities for unemployed people aged 16 to 29 is also included within the category.

Personal/Skills Development

This status is split into two different categories – PSD (Employability) and PSD (Social & Health)

PSD (Employability)

Those who participate in activities with the aim of improving their employability. These formal programmes will often be delivered by community learning and development or third sector organisation. Also included is the Work Programme via DWP. The courses will have a structured attendance pattern.

PSD (Social & Health)

Some young people may not be ready to enter the labour market and will require access to support from support services to make transitions into learning/ work or adulthood. This status relates to individuals who are undertaking structured opportunities appropriate to their long term needs or to address their barriers to participation. It includes those whose entry to opportunities will have been planned through the transition planning process and take account of the strengths, abilities, wishes and needs of the young person as well as identification of relevant support strategies which may be required. In addition, it includes individuals who are facing barriers to participation and are participating in “structured” support for the removal of barriers prior to concentrating on employability.

Voluntary Work

Undertaking voluntary work/volunteering, this will involve a young person giving of his/her time and energy through a third party. It will benefit both the young person and others, including individuals, groups and organisations, communities, the environment and society at large. Some volunteering may include a financial allowance. Work experience that is not organised via a formal training programme and un-paid work would also be recorded here.

The Annual Participation Measure cohort is those aged between 16 and 19 on 31st March for the period of interest. To be included in the annual participation measure an individual must have status data covering the whole period of interest April –  March. Therefore, records created mid-year without a full status history for the year have been excluded from the measure.

Coverage: the number of individuals reported within the annual participation measure represents approximately 93% of the 16-19 year olds population having a record within the shared dataset.  Hence the measure does not report on the entire population because the shared dataset does not hold records of those:

  • Attending independent schools or being home schooled
  • Self-funding at University
  • Living in Scotland but with no record of publicly funded schooling or post school education in Scotland and not registered with SDS.

Criteria for Change

This evaluation is based on: any difference within +/- 1 percentage point of last year's figure suggests that the position is more likely to be maintaining than showing any change. An increase of 1 percentage points or more suggests the position is improving; whereas a decrease of 1 percentage points or more suggests the position is worsening.

For information on general methodological approach, please click here.

Future issues or reviews

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is one of the key partners who share data with SDS. Since 2014, SDS received data for those aged 18 and over in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support. These benefits were replaced by Universal Credit (UC). Although the rollout of UC commenced in March 2016 and was completed in December 2018, SDS did not receive UC data until late summer 2021.

The inclusion of UC data for individuals aged 16-19 has led to improvements in data quality and means the measure can now comprehensively report on those who are out of work (unemployed seeking and economically inactive). In addition, the UC data has also been used to identify individuals who are employed and in receipt of universal credit.

Unfortunately, DWP was unable to supply historic universal credit data meaning figures and percentages for previous years remain unchanged. Within previous reports we noted that we were unable to reliably quantify the impact the lack of UC data had on the APM. However, we believed we were unable to comprehensively identify or report on young adults who were unemployed and claiming out of work benefits.

However, it should be noted that through the delivery of our post school services and transition support from school, SDS track and engage with unemployed young adults. In local areas, SDS works with DWP to offer support to young unemployed people thus maintaining an accurate record of their circumstances. As a result, the APM for previous years will have accurately reported on unemployment where SDS had delivered support to individuals. Although available to all, SDS support is mainly delivered between the ages of 16 and 18½ years old. This approach will have to some extent mitigated the absence of UC data in prior years.

The figures and percentages impacted by the lack of UC data included the categories of unemployed seeking, unemployed not seeking, employment and unconfirmed. This meant the headline classifications of participation, non-participation and unconfirmed will have been directly impacted.

Examples of how the absence of UC data will have had an impact include:

  • DWP data was used to create unemployed seeking statuses and the number of 18 and 19 year olds reported within an unemployed seeking status gradually reduced since 2016.
  • In the absence of HMRC data, DWP data was used to identify when 18 to 19 year olds had left employment.
  • DWP data was used to update individuals from unconfirmed to unemployed seeking.

As the results in this 2022 report demonstrate, the inclusion of UC data has improved the quality of the shared data, particularly in relation to unemployed and unconfirmed statuses and, within these, the 18 & 19 year old age groups.

Discussions with HMRC to obtain access Pay as You Earn Real Time Information are ongoing. Positive progress has been made in obtaining this information for statistical purposes only. This would further improve the data quality within the APM statistics. However, further work will be required to gain access to this data to allow it to be integrated into the shared dataset to improve the tracking of young adults by SDS and its partners.

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