LEP Review - Sue Brownlow, Director, Combined Universities Cornwall
LEP European Structural and Investment Fund Strategy Summary Statements
Each of the LEP strategy submissions identifies Higher Level Skills as a key barrier to or
enabler of growth, however for approximately a third of the LEP areas the focus of their
concern is a mismatch of skills or keeping step with increasing sector demands for specific
skills rather than a deficit of highly-skilled individuals amongst their resident population.
The majority of LEP strategies identify graduate retention as key challenge to delivering
economic growth through a highly-skilled workforce. This pattern is seemingly still evident
in areas with a large concentration of universities, with statistics cited evidencing the low
levels of newly qualified individuals who remain in the area to access employment.
Leadership and Management skills, especially for SMEs, and STEM subjects are repeatedly
included as priority areas for up-skilling and promotion. The latter of these seemingly
reflect the focus on science, engineering and technology based sectors as priority areas for
growth however several of the strategies also make references to the challenges of
declining manufacturing sectors.
Interestingly one submission makes the specific point that previous ESF frameworks have
capped skills development at Level Three, which goes against what is needed locally to
facilitate real growth.
In all but a couple of strategies local universities are listed as key assets for research,
development and innovation with strong existing clusters and collaboration already in
existence. This suggests that there are solid foundations for continued and enhanced
activities however whilst some specifically name an institution as a lead partner for a
proposed activity a number of others have simply listed their presence but not their
participation under these thematic areas.
SME links with HE are frequently referenced in general introductions to the strengths and
opportunities for this business base however a far smaller proportion list skills as part of
the indicative activities for boosting SME competiveness, although arguably they may
simply consider training as part of the ‘support offer’.
In each of the strategies clear links are identified between deprived groups and
geographies and issues of worklessness. Low skills and the need to enhance these are
frequently cited as a means to redress social exclusion, however only a handful of LEPs
make specific reference to widening participation to higher-level skills and the potential
impact of increased access and attainment.
Graduate placements, internships, employability support and start-up programmes
are all mentioned as likely activities in the majority of submissions, along with
enhanced CEIAG and linkages between academia and business. This suggests an
understanding that in order for skills to be aligned with business need there is also a
requirement to promote these opportunities and increase common awareness.
Encouragingly the vast majority of the LEP strategy submissions state that they have
been developed in consultation with HEIs and FECs in their proximate and
neighbouring areas, which is reflected in a repeated aim to improve collaboration
between these 'assets' and local businesses, SMEs and the public sector.
Higher Level Apprenticeships are frequently included as an indicative activity to
boost skills in line with priority sectors however there are very limited details on
their content, delivery or administration.
Charli Styles, November 2013