Ministers give green light to Hampshire Chamber-led skills plan for Solent

BOOSTING SKILLS: Hampshire Chamber Chief Executive Ross McNally

A business-led ‘road map’ to put the needs of Solent employers more directly at the heart of workplace skills training has taken a major step forward.

Government ministers have approved a plan for the next three to five years prepared by Hampshire Chamber of Commerce in partnership with firms, education providers, policymakers, charities and the public sector.

The Solent Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) follows detailed research into persistent skills gaps in the labour market and sets out how post-16 technical education and training will be made more responsive to employers’ needs.

Fourteen recommendations will be taken forward.

A key aim is to foster a ‘shift in thinking’ among employers and encourage them to make skills development an integral part of wider business planning.

The LSIP covers sectors where the Solent has recognised strengths, such as marine, maritime and engineering, and others struggling with acute recruitment and skills pressures including hospitality, health and social care and logistics.

Among the measures approved are a proactive awareness campaign for employers, an alignment of skills brokerage services, a new panel of sector champions to help learners find career pathways and a top-level leadership group to oversee LSIP delivery.

Ross McNally, Hampshire Chamber Chief Executive, said: “The LSIP is deliberately employer-focused to ensure that skills training works better for Solent businesses of all sizes and sectors.

“A key aspiration is to promote a shift in thinking and highlight the importance of skills development as an early, fundamental part of good business planning.

“For smaller businesses with capacity constraints, that is likely to mean more modular, bite-sized training.

“We will work with further and higher education providers to identify how we can co-locate more industry and training facilities, so bringing work experience and training opportunities closer together.

“And we will work with businesses and other stakeholders on a dedicated programme of employer engagement featuring events, briefings, roundtables and marketing campaigns.”

The report identifies what it describes as ‘considerable untapped potential’ in communities across the Solent to bring into the labour market more young people not already in education, employment or training, and individuals with special educational needs and disabilities.

“Our research indicates there is strength in diversity,” said Claire Froggatt, Solent LSIP Programme Director. “Increased diversity within the labour market has the potential to result in greater wellbeing, greater productivity benefits and, subsequently, economic growth.”

The publication of the Solent LSIP follows an employer survey, a series of engagement workshops and a stakeholder summit.

Claire added: “Feedback showed that the size of the recruitment and skills challenge in the Solent varies sector by sector.

“For many employers the biggest single challenge is the size of the labour market itself, with competition for the pool of learners on which they can draw.

“While this has been a long-standing issue, it has been exacerbated in recent years by the withdrawal of free movement from Europe and the impact of Covid.

“To help overcome these factors, we want our region to be ready to make the most of future opportunities including those opened up by the development of the Solent Freeport.

“For those sectors with particularly acute issues, the LSIP sets out ways we can challenge negative perceptions of what it is like to work in them.

“At the same time, we need to manage the transition prompted by evolving technology including in the shift towards the green economy.

“Technological advances mean that industries will require jobs and skills in the next few years that do not yet currently exist.

“People of all ages will have to maintain core competencies while adapting to the need for new technical skills.

“Education providers will need to encourage those ‘foundation literacies’ required for lifelong learning such as numeracy, technological skills and the character qualities demanded by workplace culture.

“Now that the LSIP has been approved, we can move ahead to deliver it through effective collaboration among employers, firms, business support organisations, education providers and local authorities.”

Hampshire Chamber was designated as the lead body for the Solent LSIP, including the Isle of Wight, by the Department for Education. This area mirrors the geography of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Hampshire Chamber is also supporting neighbouring Surrey Chamber on a similar plan for North Hampshire and the whole of Surrey, reflecting the Enterprise M3 LEP area.

To read and download the Solent LSIP, see Solent Local Skills Improvement Plan