The national and international attention around the forthcoming COP26 climate summit brings a valuable opportunity for colleges and employers to come together to try to address some of the skills challenges around development (and in turn economic development) in related sectors.
Chichester College Group (CCG) and FE Sussex successfully led a consortium across eight further education and sixth-form colleges, in partnership with Sussex Chamber of Commerce as the lead employer representative body, in a bid to boost skills training in sustainable industries. The outcome is that we have recently secured more than £7 million funding as part of the Government’s Local Skills Improvement Plans and Strategic Development Fund pilots.
Collectively we identified six cross-sector priority areas where we need to develop capacity and expertise in skills to create a sustainable future:
- Construction (decarbonisation agenda)
- Horticulture and Agriculture (food production and visitor economy)
- Creative, IT and Digital
- Engineering and electric vehicle infrastructure development
- Hydrogen and alternative energy production techniques (looking at waste and water)
- Carbon literacy (particularly in terms of raising awareness of opportunities within the sector with young people)
The bid responds to the carbon neutral agenda (post-2020 Paris agreement), the forthcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, and the UK Government’s targets for carbon neutral operation by 2035 – and our own strategic objectives:
- Upskilling the workforce (at level 3 and above) to enable significant progress to be made towards meeting the net zero agenda.
- Creating centres of excellence in teaching and learning for green technologies.
- Ensuring the curriculum reflects local and sub-regional employer needs of skills development.
- Driving relationships between employers and colleges.
- Training staff to specialise in skill shortage areas and sharing this expertise peer to peer.
- Devising modular sets of specialist digital curriculum resources common to all colleges.
- Seconding college staff to employers for upskilling in current technology and working practices.
- Paying for employers to deliver specific specialist aspects of skills shortage areas.
The colleges – Bexhill College, Brighton, Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC) College of Richard Collyer, East Sussex College Group, Greater Brighton Metropolitan Group (GB Met), Plumpton College and Vardean College – are now working together to deliver five projects following the announcement in July:
- Alternative energy and hydrogen technologies (led by CCG).
- Land management strategies and practices for environmental land management schemes (led by Plumpton College, with Brinsbury College).
- Electric vehicle training centres (led by GB Met).
- Decarbonisation academies in Sussex (led by East Sussex College Group).
- Establishing carbon literacy and sustainability awareness (led by BHASVIC).
Through these projects we aim to accelerate the development of green tech skills across Sussex. The funding will enable us to invest in specialist new teaching facilities and expertise across the eight colleges, and in turn support the curriculum offered by the colleges with a focus on long-term skills priorities of local areas.
I can only echo the comments of our Chief Executive Shelagh Legrave CBE upon the funding announcement: “This is a fantastic boost for skills training and development across the whole Sussex region. Businesses have been struggling to recruit people with the right skills, and while colleges do a fantastic job in skills training, there are some industry gaps where the right equipment or expertise may not be available to deliver the best training. Working collaboratively with partners at other colleges across the whole of the Sussex region reflects the need to develop a region-wide approach to improving skills training and will hugely benefit young people and employers in our local areas.”
We are extremely proud to be one of eight trailblazers across the country to pilot some of the key recommendations of the ‘Skills for jobs: lifelong learning for opportunity and growth’ white paper which was published in January. There is every opportunity for further collaboration, across sectors, as we move this agenda forward.
Julie Kapsalis is Managing Director at Chichester College Group, Chair at Coast to Coast LEP, and a Member of the Institute of Economic Development