Sarah Fenton Head of Local Sector Strategy at CITB describes how their new Joint Investment Strategy aims to tackle skills shortages at a local level.
Last autumn, the CITB announced a new £10m Joint Investment Strategy (JIS) targeted on the development of construction skills across the 8 core city Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas and Greater London. £5m of CITB levy funding is being matched by £5m from Local Government funding sources.
To deliver this sector based approach to local skills needs, CITB is working closely with the LEPs and local authorities in London, Sheffield, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle, to firstly secure investment and then work with employers to determine the best use of the funding for each locality.
The strategy reflects the fact that construction is a key contributor to the economy. Working together, the industry and local government can help drive growth through skills and employment and in doing so reinforce the wider economy.
JIS gives employers and industry more direct ownership of skills. Currently, industry feedback suggests that employers skills needs are not being met as quickly and effectively as they’d like. At local levels there are considerable variations in skills needs, influenced by a variety of factors such as the local skills legacy, existing and planned construction workloads and educational course offerings. The JIS model provides the perfect opportunity to address employers’ skills needs as well as filling local skills gaps.
The strategy will use industry research and intelligence such as CITB’s Construction Skills Network to tailor the training and skills offering to best suit the needs of the locality.
On the ground, the JIS will target 3 thematic areas of Growth through Business; People and Local Enablers and Drivers.
Industry objectives include:
- Business growth for construction SMEs;
- Reskilling unemployed construction workers;
- Engagement with NEETs;
- Supporting more clients to use the National Skills
Academy for Construction’s client based approach, to set and achieve targets for skills, employment and apprenticeships.
The priority given to each of the thematic areas will vary according to the local need and availability of pre-existing programmes on offer. In some localities for example, there may already be a lot of programmes in place to reskill unemployed people for work. In that instance, the JIS might concentrate instead on SME growth. The idea is to avoid any duplication in terms of existing initiatives and offerings, and identify the gaps to focus on.
As the first programme of its kind, the Joint Investment Strategy sees construction employers taking greater ownership and leadership of their skills agenda at a local level. Through co-design, co-funding and co-delivery, employers, local government and CITB are coming together to provide real skills solutions. A system for sharing best practice across the cities will be set up and there will also be an independent impact evaluation on each locality to inform future working. The first schemes will become operational in London and Sheffield this spring with other areas coming on board later in the year.
To date, there has been a great deal of enthusiasm and optimism from all of the nine localities who are keen to engage in the strategy. The biggest hurdle thus far for local governments has been sourcing the match funding. There are numerous funding pots available to local government however, accessing these and the criteria that come with them, is part of the difficulty. It’s often a case of square peg, round hole. There will always be challenges in breaking new ground and moving to new ways of working. It is encouraging that local government are being enabled to respond to this as they wish, and are eager to do so. Working with existing systems and funding schemes can be challenging and frustrating for all involved.
With willingness on both sides, the JIS model can benefit both industry and local government. It will supply employers with the skilled employees they need and help local economies by getting people back into employment and building a strong skills base that’s fit for purpose. ■
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Head of Local Sector Strategy