The Lancashire Local Skills Improvement Plan, a trailblazing project led by the organisers of the Be Inspired Business Awards, the BIBAs, has issued its final recommendations to government which could see a fundamental change in the way technical skills education is provided in the future.
The Lancashire LSIP, led by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, organiser of the BIBAs, has submitted its report to the Department for Education after six months of detailed research to understand where technical skills gaps exist, and what barriers there are to reskilling and upskilling in the Lancashire workforce.
The research involved a mass online survey, focus groups, roundtable discussions and a week long series of roadshow events at which delegates were invited to contribute ideas for improvement that were then live polled using an online voting system.
Businesses from across the county told of problems recruiting skilled people, and how costs and difficulties releasing staff for training were among the reasons for not investing in helping workers acquire new skills.
Employers also said they wanted to see greater flexibility in the skills system, as well as more focus on vocational training not just degree qualifications – putting them at odds with former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who is calling for 70 per cent of young people to go onto higher education to help tackle Britain’s productivity crisis
Geoff Mason, policy manager at the Chamber who led the Lancashire LSIP project, said it’s essential that employers now see the government respond to their calls for change: “Our aim was to produce an evidence-based skills audit of a sort never seen before to ensure future skills delivered by colleges of further education actually match what firms require and deserve.
“Businesses across Lancashire have been crystal clear in their responses: the skills system in its current guise doesn’t fully meet the needs of employers, and this must change.
“Government needs to heed and act on the findings and recommendations set out in the Lancashire LSIP report so that employer needs are much better prioritised and catered for. If the status quo is maintained, businesses will wonder why their views and opinions were sought on such a scale, and we simply won’t see the county, its economy or its people reach their full potential.”
Educational Establishment of the Year is a hotly contested category in the BIBAs again this year.
In 2021, Preston Vocational Centre, part of the Community Gateway Association, scooped the title and a £2,000 cash prize. It spent the money on a computerised safeguarding system to enable teaching staff to not only develop the construction skills of learners, but to ensure they receiving the highest levels of pastoral wrap-around support. Since its inception, Preston Vocational Centre has helped over 6,000 learners gain new construction skills, many of whom had disengaged from other forms of education.
“We have some truly amazing education and skills providers doing great work in Lancashire, including colleges, universities, charities and private sector training companies. I’ve no doubt competition among those that have entered the BIBAs is going to stiff and that the judges will have their work cut out deciding on a single winner,” said Geoff.