The Local Skills Report and Labour Market Analysis sets the strategy and priorities for Employment and Skills in the region.
In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly we are ambitious for systemic change and the opportunities that devolution will bring. Locally, skills needs and the cost of skills delivery are significantly affected by our rural, peripheral location, the predominance of micro and freelance businesses, high housing and living costs and absence of major employers. This means that national policies are not always suited to local issues.
Whilst we have achieved much through European spend, we need to be realistic about the challenges we face. The fact is that there has been little change in productivity in a decade; there is a mismatch between the skills employers need and want and what is delivered; and some parts of the county suffer continued deprivation and hardship. Change is required and that means a forensic focus on the outcomes we want to see embedded in delivery as well as new activity targeted at gaps in supply. The pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the labour market and on our high streets, but it has accelerated change and innovation and ushered in new ways of training delivery that will open up opportunities for our employers and workforce in the longer term.
Through a review of the evidence and feedback from stakeholders and partners, four strategic themes have been clearly identified to frame our response. They are not set in watertight compartments – indeed some actions can contribute positively to all four – but they help give focus and clarity to the major issues CIoS LEP wishes to achieve through its actions on skills:
Inspire: Developing the workforce of tomorrow
We have bright, ambitious young people but too many are held back by a lack of aspiration, poor basic skills and a lack of awareness of the opportunities that the local economy offers. There needs to be a concerted drive to improve GCSE attainment in core subjects, with digital skills accepted as a core skill. Fewer of our highly qualified young people are progressing to higher education than average and there is a need to better understand the progression pathways available from current provision. The uptake of STEM subjects is in decline. A high proportion of our jobs that are at risk from the impact of Covid-19 provide entry level jobs for young people and 16 to 19 year-olds have been nearly twice as likely to be furloughed as older workers. Partners are already seeing the number of people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) rise, and getting people back to work and creating new good quality jobs will be an important aspect of the economy’s recovery. Careers education information, advice and guidance has never been more important but it needs to be more relevant, to engage parents as key influencers and better reflect the changing local economy.
Transform: A productive workforce
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is an economy in transition. It has incredible potential but also huge challenges to be addressed. It has one of the lowest levels of productivity in the country and has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Skills shortages and skills gaps (including basic skills) can and are limiting the potential expansion of local businesses. Workforce training levels have been declining. But in an economy dominated by SMEs and micro businesses, employers do not have the capacity, skills or HR capabilities to use the skills of the workforce effectively. Yet the LEP’s growth ambitions require a world-class workforce and the combined efforts of employers, schools, colleges, university provision and other training providers working in partnership will be needed to better align delivery with employers’ skills needs and improve the take up of Apprenticeships. The pandemic has put a premium on digital technology and there is a need to accelerate workforce digital skills development, combined with action to ensure that access is no longer a barrier to uptake. The LEP’s high numbers of self-employed will need support to bounce back and regrow and there is a pressing need to support and encourage a new generation of entrepreneurs and to develop the leadership and management skills of our employers.
Innovate: Accelerate the growth & diversification of the economy
Cornwall has unique opportunities to diversify its economy and expand it high skilled jobs through harnessing its natural resources and expanding its manufacturing, tech and creative sectors. Local sector bodies are best placed to identify the skills they need and the gaps in the market. There is a need to support their work, identify cross-cutting themes, broker partnerships and add value to sector specific initiatives. For those young people who leave for Higher Education there is a need to do more to keep in touch and better communicate the expanding opportunities that are coming on stream to reverse our brain drain. Aligning the provision of skills to labour market demand requires the development of labour market information to generate, analyse and disseminate reliable sectoral and occupational information with partners. There is a need for a long-term perspective to help anticipate the skills that will be needed in the future as CIoS seeks to fuel innovation, productivity, technological change and competitiveness.
Thrive: Opportunity for all
Deprivation means that skills are not the only barrier that some of our disadvantaged residents face. Issues of poverty, housing, health and wellbeing mean that an holistic approach is needed to support people furthest from the labour market towards employability or work. Close partnership working with the DWP, housing, health and welfare partners is needed to develop innovative solutions delivered via outreach to residents in some of the more rural and coastal settlements where transport adds an additional barrier. An immediate priority to tackle rising unemployment will be addressed through our Economic Recovery Plan. Devolution offers us the opportunity to move to a more collaborative and outcome based approach to delivery and to provide integrated solutions. The lack of basic skills from school leavers through to those in and out of work is closing down opportunities for local people, acting as a barrier to work and progression. The pandemic is expected to have a detrimental, albeit potentially short term, impact on living standards. With almost half the population ‘just about managing’ we need to use the opportunities to respond at speed to support those affected to develop the skills they need, accelerating our economic recovery and renewal. A complementary approach with businesses is required to encourage them to pay the Living Wage and to provide working conditions that contribute to employee health and well-being and improves productivity by reducing absence levels.