LEP Review - Sue Brownlow, Director, Combined Universities Cornwall

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LEP Review

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LEP Review - Sue Brownlow, Director, Combined Universities Cornwall

  1. 1. 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.
  2. 2.  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

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