It was inspiring that on Friday the Sussex Chamber of Commerce published a series of documents that they have produced within their contribution for what is called the Local Skills Improvement Plan Trailblazer. The LSIP is a response directed to the Government through the Department for Education and it will hopefully emerge from the DfE for suitable future training schemes in our area. The schemes should provide appropriate training opportunities that will meet the needs of local businesses and they should enable both the existing teams and also future employees to benefit from this approach. Late last year the Government invited agencies from across the country to help set out proposals to reshape the further education technical skill systems to improve the support for local companies. It has taken merely five months for a major change to be established that ended last month. A small group of the organisations were approved to participate in the LSIP Trailblazers and one of these was the Sussex Chamber of Commerce which has proven to be very positive for our community based on my own experience. It is important to understand that although it was the Sussex Chamber that has carried out this local work, that they have done so in connection with other organisations, businesses and education providers over that timeframe. These included other local Chambers of Commerce across Sussex, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Sussex Institute of Directors. As Ana Christie, the CEO of the Chamber has stated “we have reached approximately 1350 businesses”. She also stated that “This has been fed into the evidence base to produce the Case for Change and the subsequent Roadmap for Change, which will be taken forward over the next 3 to 5 years.” So, this work has been incredibly effective.
Along with the 1350 businesses and the agencies that help support businesses such as the Local Enterprise Partnerships as well as the Chambers of Commerce there have also been a significant number of the educational agencies in Sussex. These include the Universities, Colleges and independent training providers for businesses. The involvement of educational agencies is vital as they would be the organisations that would be expected to change the training schemes in due course. I recall how over many years I had worked with some of the Sussex educational agencies to try to match the needs for businesses. Up until now the biggest barrier was that the current funding system does not enable Colleges to respond to local companies’ skill needs by offering flexible training. It was very inspiring that the Government after so many years of blocking flexibility from colleges towards local companies, are now looking at new ways of making the funding system adaptable to enable this process to take place here in our community. As Ana states
“The plan proposes a reinstatement of Sussex as a functional economic area, reuniting East and West Sussex with the city of Brighton & Hove, to become a focal point for innovative education and skills development, with businesses and education providers working more collaboratively to better meet local need and driving economic and social prosperity.”
Although the Government has not been actively involved in the LSIP approach here in Sussex, a number of Sussex MPs have paid attention to what has taken place over the last five months. Clearly, we need them to pick up the final information from the Chamber of Commerce and it would also be very inspiring if they would be willing to engage with businesses in their constituencies between now and their return to the House of Commons on 19th April. Interestingly back on the 1st of April, Alex Burghart who is the Minister for the State of Skills wrote a letter to a person called Shevaun Haviland who joined the Civil Service in 2016 as the Deputy Director of Business Partnerships in the Cabinet Office. A year ago, Shevaun was appointed as the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce. The letter from Alex included
“We have learnt a lot from the eight trailblazers, which have been operating across the country and have worked well with employers, providers and other local stakeholders in the area. I am keen to build on them for our national roll out. We have found that our trailblazers in Sussex and Kent, on a different geography to their LEPs, have laid strong foundations, on which we want to build.”
It is very encouraging to read this text and we clearly need local MPs to be aware of this and we need them to spend some time listening to local businesses so that the Government will release significant opportunities to our communities through educational systems. It would also be great for local people to read the Chamber of Commerce publications that are now published.