Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the aims and intentions contained within the government’s ambitious White Paper on further education, which was published late last month.
The Chamber believes the focus on “skills for jobs” is an exciting and pivotal moment for the sector and an opportunity to achieve fundamental change in the climate around technical education and skills.
Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of policy and communications, said: “We are delighted that the White Paper appears to address many of the key recommendations of the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) Workplace Training and Development Commission by focussing on giving people the skills they need, in a way that suits them, so they can get great jobs in sectors the economy needs and boost this country’s productivity.
“In addition, we are very encouraged that the White Paper advances a clear policy that skills planning should be localised and have a powerful employer voice at its heart. To achieve this, the DfE will need powerful, established local employer representative organisations, such as the Chambers of Commerce, that already have this voice as part of their lifeblood to play a more important provision-shaping role.”
Central to the reform proposals is the establishment of Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) bringing together business representatives, further education providers and other interested parties.
In order to pilot LSIPs and other aspects of the White Paper, the Department for Education is seeking to identify a number of Trailblazer areas for 2021/22.
Having met with all of the county’s further education colleges, the University of Suffolk, Suffolk County Council, New Anglia LEP, as well as colleagues in Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Suffolk Chamber is trying to explore with the department the options for the two counties to be included in the initial Trailblazer discussions.
Suffolk Chamber has written to all seven of Suffolk’s MPs asking them to support its early involvement in these investigations. A number have already written to the Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson, backing this request.
The reasons for Suffolk and Norfolk being included in particular at this point are as follows:
· The added value in terms of future shared learning from the Trailblazers through the inclusion of a predominately rural area;
· The “match ready” collaborative and trusted relationships that exist between businesses and the FE sector across both counties will ensure that any LSIP can function effectively from day one of any pilot;
· The predominance of nationally vital sectors across the two counties, including logistics (the Port of Felixstowe accounts for 41% of the UK’s incoming container traffic), agritech and energy (both offshore and nuclear) as enshrined in Suffolk and Norfolk’s Local Industrial Strategy;
· The specific skills pipeline requires associated with the prospective building and operation of Sizewell C, a nationally significant infrastructure project;
· To support the government’s “levelling up” agenda in an area that includes some of the most deprived wards in England, including in Great Yarmouth, Ipswich and Lowestoft.
Mr Simon added: “Suffolk is certainly well placed to contribute to any shared learning, not least due to the trusted working relationships and history of delivering projects between Suffolk Chamber and our further education partners”.