Leader Views


Posted on:
24th August, 2020

Collaboration on skills a catalyst for economic growth

As a vital area of recovery planning, skills is key to any recovery success and boosting productivity. Here, Barney Ely, Chair of Enterprise M3 Skills Advisory Panel and Managing Director, South East, Hays, gives his insight straight from chairing a virtual skills conference with the Catalyst South group of LEPs.

Collaboration on skills a catalyst for economic growth

"Writing about regional networks, Diana Beech recently wrote, “Whichever way you look at it, the concept of ‘place’ has been thrust front and centre of this Government’s political strategy – to spread opportunity, to boost regional economies, and to do justice to newly-won voters in parts of the country that feel ‘left-behind’.” (HEPI, 2020). So, where does that leave those of us in the South East?

I was thrilled to be asked to chair a virtual skills conference, involving representatives from the Catalyst South* group of LEPs aimed at identifying the common challenges which could enable us to collectively influence the national skills agenda to support economic recovery in our region.

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that collaborative working such as this should rightly form a much larger part of what we do, giving us, as the South East group of LEPs, a much stronger voice with which we can inform Government policy on behalf of our region.

This timely discussion welcomed Skills Advisory Panel Chairs and representatives together with LEP skills leads. Many of us had not met before and I was struck by the rich mix of representation from business and education sectors, together with input from our LEP skills leads which resulted in an incredibly insightful conversation.

During the meeting, each LEP shared headlines of the skills challenges and priorities from their area. I was fascinated to hear more about how our common economic similarities (and challenges, highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic), are punctuated by some curious individual differences, such as the demographics of our resident workforces and priority sectors.

In terms of a common challenge, we all recognised the importance of careers advice and guidance – not just for our new entrants to the labour market but also for those midway through or even approaching the end of their career and thrown into an unexpected situation of having to apply for jobs – sometimes in new, unfamiliar sectors.

I know this continued discussion will be very important to how we approach our post-Covid-19 skills agenda and look forward to the next meeting, to be chaired by my peer from Coast to Capital LEP, Frances Rutter.

Coast to Capital is pleased to be working so closely with our colleagues at neighbouring LEPs in the Catalyst South area. It’s so important at this time that we have a coordinated approach to the recovery from the impact of COVID, which will require intensive, tailored and integrated employment and skills support in all places across the country.” Frances Rutter – Coast to Capital Board member and Skills 360 Board Chair

It is great to share ideas and thoughts, we have a huge task to complete within the Skills remit, made more difficult with the current impact of the pandemic and it definitely pays to work together to create a sound body of work and present a convincing argument to Government for the Catalyst area.Adrian Hawkins – Skills & Employment Board Chair, Hertfordshire LEP

"Skills sit at the heart of a successful economy, it is important to work together to understand common issues and develop collective solutions to address, made even more critical by the impact of Covid-19 on our workforce." Rachael Randall – Solent LEP Board member and SAP Chair

We’re really pleased to be able to share and learn from best practice with other LEP areas through Catalyst South. Skills is a top priority for the SELEP area as being fundamental to our economic growth and impacted greatly by the current crisis. Joining forces to tackle common issues will help to ensure we maximise our shared knowledge and resources.Colette Bailey – South East LEP SAP Chair

* Catalyst South comprises: Coast to Capital LEP, Enterprise M3 LEP, Hertfordshire LEP, Solent LEP, South East LEP and Thames Valley Berkshire LEP.

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