Skills key to unlocking Hertfordshire’s recovery from COVID-19

Alfie Brown

The strategy provides a roadmap out of the pandemic up to 2024.

Hertfordshire is placing skills at the heart of its bounce back from COVID-19 by levelling up the workforce’s expertise to match business needs.

Hertfordshire County Council, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), in consultation with partners from across the county, have published the third Hertfordshire Skills and Employment Strategy.

The strategy provides a roadmap out of the pandemic up to 2024 by accelerating and strengthening skills provision to meet employers’ needs and helping businesses thrive, whilst supporting residents to reach their potential.

The strategy provides a roadmap out of the pandemic up to 2024. It will offer residents re-skilling and up-skilling opportunities to meet the requirements of jobs being offered by businesses, particularly those in high growth sectors.

Young people will be given a leg up through apprenticeships and technical pathways.

The strategy is underpinned by three cross-cutting priorities; digital skills, low carbon/clean growth and inclusive growth, and has five core themes:

1. Unlocking emerging talent, support for young people aged 16 – 24 years

The 18 to 24 age group has been adversely affected by the pandemic. Action to support this age group into employment includes increasing uptake of apprenticeships and technical pathways while enhancing vulnerable young people’s skillsets and reducing the already lower than national average number of under 25s Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEET).

2. Adult learning and employment

This includes retraining and upskilling adults for intermediate, advanced and higher-level technical jobs in industries that are hiring. Digital and sustainability skills along with support for minority groups will be key pillars to this ambition.

3. Skills to grow small and medium-sized businesses

The challenges of COVID-19 alongside EU transition has meant that employers have had to make difficult decisions about redundancies, while having limited ability to invest in staff training or recruit young talent due to workplace restrictions.

These challenges are more acute with 91 per cent of Hertfordshire’s SMEs being micro businesses, employing less than 10 staff. The central tenet of this ambition is to ensure that skills training is more closely aligned to the needs of businesses, by putting employers at the core of the planning and delivery of post-16 provision.

4. Strengthen priority and growth sectors

These include life sciences, advanced engineering and manufacturing, film and TV, smart construction, agri-tech and knowledge and digital based assets.

For example, the cell and gene therapy cluster centred in Stevenage is now a Government-designated High Potential Opportunity Zone with demand for both higher level and technical skills.

In addition to supporting our key sector strengths, this strategy will also galvanise support for those sectors that have been most impacted by the pandemic such as hospitality and tourism.

5. Placemaking

Business opportunities arising from Hertfordshire’s proximity to key economic areas will be seized through placemaking.

Hertfordshire is located at the centre of the UK’s golden research triangle of London-Cambridge-Oxford, and Government wants to springboard the area’s growth as a global growth corridor in sustainability. Herts IQ, the A1M science corridor, and the film and TV sector in South-West Hertfordshire all bring further opportunities.

This is the third Hertfordshire Skills and Employment Strategy, which builds on the success of previous strategies including securing £30m European Social Funding for a raft of skills and employment initiatives and £27m capital funding from Hertfordshire LEP to support local providers to meet the needs of local employers.

Key achievements

Since the first strategy came into being in 2015, there have been a number of key achievements including:

Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal (HOP): powered by Hertfordshire LEP, this free resource helps residents make informed decisions about careers and training;

> The Careers and Enterprise Company Enterprise Adviser Network and Hertfordshire Careers Hub, delivered locally by Hertfordshire LEP, help to bridge the gap between education and employment;

> The Hertfordshire Skills Advisory Panel was set up to provide collective leadership on skills development and its Local Skills Report provides insight into skills and employment needs across the county;

The Hertfordshire Skills Framework sets out the key employability skills and attributes sought by Hertfordshire employers to improve the work readiness of young people and the careers guidance provided by schools.

The Skills and Employment Dashboard, an interactive resource developed by Hertfordshire LEP to enable stakeholders to better understand the county’s labour market.

> DWP’s Complex Needs Toolkit which maps initiatives supporting vulnerable adults into employment.

Cllr Terry Douris, executive member education, libraries and lifelong learning at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “We’ve seen the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on residents and businesses in Hertfordshire, and this Skills and Employment Strategy is a crucial part of our recovery plans.

“We want Hertfordshire to be a county where people have the opportunity to live healthy, fulfilling lives in thriving, prosperous communities, and helping people get skilled jobs is key to delivering this.

“This strategy will help us make sure that everyone, no matter what age, can get the support they need to develop new or existing skills that will help them unlock their potential.”

Adrian Hawkins OBE, chair, skills advisory panel, Hertfordshire LEP said: “Now is the time to further strengthen the links between business and educators.

“Together we are united in unlocking potential and widening access for all, encouraging social mobility and demonstrating that all aspects of the skills agenda including apprenticeships and traineeships are valued options.

“This strategy sits within a suite of documents being developed by Hertfordshire LEP in partnership to support our recovery post COVID-19 and the realities of life outside of the EU”

Chris Gildersleeve, service leader, Department for Work and Pensions, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire District, said: “This edition of the Skills and Employment Strategy builds on the successes and learning of the last few years, addresses the current unique challenges and sets out the key themes that will drive our shared ambition to increase skill levels and employment across Hertfordshire thereby supporting business outcomes and our citizens’ life chances.”