Cumbria Chamber of Commerce has been appointed by the Department for Education (DfE) as a Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) Trailblazer. This followed a bidding opportunity earlier this year, open to any Employer Representative Bodies (ERBs), with all eight Trailblazers awarded to Chambers of Commerce.
The aim of LSIPs is to put employers at the heart of local skills programmes, seeking to ensure a responsive local skills system and the right skills provision to meet the needs of employers now and moving forward. This will involve engaging actively and effectively with both employers and providers.
The LSIP pilots have to be delivered by March, which doesn’t give us long! Although we’re obviously hoping that the pilot will lead to longer term activity.
Here in Cumbria we’re starting from a really positive base. Almost all of the other business representative organisations active in the county have readily agreed to work with us to deliver this – Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster, CBI, CITB, Cumbria Tourism, the CLA, the Farmer Network and the NFU. Local providers and other stakeholders are also keen to work together. We’ll also be approaching local business groups such as Chambers of Trade and local networks.
We also have a wealth of information already available, not least the Local Skills Report produced by the Skills Advisory Panel.
However, as we’re all only too aware, a massive shift has taken place in the labour market since this report was produced and a refresh will be needed to inform local actions. So we’ll be working with the Skills Advisory Panel (which we’re already a member of) to review this and other relevant data already available then validate the conclusions with the business community while at the same time asking additional specific questions to consider the effects of EU Exit and COVID-19, plus the impact/potential of moving to Net Zero.
We’ll also be undertaking a gap analysis to identify any further information needed. We will address what we reasonably can in the pilot timescale and include anything further in a proposed plan for 22/23.
This plan for the future will include future activities and how we propose the groups and mechanisms move forward (including any changes based on experience in the pilot) and how we propose to refresh employer needs information on an ongoing basis.
Given the breadth and depth of information already available, we believe this course of action enables us to focus in on immediate and shorter term priorities and validation by the business community and enable some concrete initial actions, while at the same time putting together a meaningful plan for future and ongoing research and activity.
As well as identifying needs and issues, a key part of the LSIP activity is working with providers and others to agree others what local actions can be taken to improve provision and responsiveness, and what specific interventions are needed to address barriers that are preventing the system from adapting.
At the moment we’re working on finalising plans and budgets, agreeing them with DfE and putting together a steering group and delivery team. We’ve already gone out to stakeholders about potential secondments and will be starting to issue opportunities for temporary employment/secondment/consultancy contracts soon. Ideally we’d have liked a core, employed team in place but this is unlikely to prove feasible given the timescales so we’re taking a flexible approach.
As businesses you’ll be key to the LSIP. So please when we, and other organisations, come out with opportunities to engage – whether surveys, 1-2-1 discussions, focus groups or events – please do get involved. We need your active input if we’re really going to make this work for Cumbria!