From education to employment

Business leaders and skills experts collaborate to future proof Surrey’s skills landscape at the Surrey Skills Summit

jack kennedy

On 10 November, the inaugural Surrey Skills Summit took place at Sandown Park Racecourse. The packed event saw local business leaders, employers, colleges, universities, skills providers and local government officials take the next step in collaborating to create a more inclusive and dynamic skills system in Surrey.

This event was also the backdrop for the launch of the Surrey Skills Plan, developed by Surrey County Council’s One Surrey Growth Board and Metro Dynamics, a market-leading economic development consultancy. The Surrey Skills Plan sets out the actions needed to create a demand-driven skills system that will power economic growth. It leverages Surrey’s existing advantages in terms of talent, business base and geography while recognising the needs of all businesses and maximising inclusion.

Surrey Skills Summit

The summit brought together local leaders, skills experts, employers and learners together to discuss the existing national and local skills landscape and the strategic work being done to meet the county’s skills needs for the next three years.

Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council, took to the stage acknowledging Surrey’s privileged position as a hub for multi-national corporations alongside the county’s low unemployment rate. However, Cllr Oliver also referenced the pockets of deprivation in the county, and the importance of ensuring the skills system in Surrey doesn’t leave anyone behind.

Jennifer Coupland, CEO of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education spoke on the national skills landscape and its relevance to Surrey. She took attendees on a journey of how far the skills agenda has moved since the Richard review which focused on the importance of giving employers a say in training standards. Bringing the conversation back to Surrey, she shared that the most popular apprenticeships in the county are Team Leader, Early Years apprenticeships and “unsurprisingly for Surrey… Accountant”.

Anthony Impey, CEO of Be the Business, stressed the need for agility and futureproofing when addressing the evolving skills deficit in an ever-changing economy. He focused on the role skills play in lifting productivity across the UK, highlighting that UK workers work five days to be as productive as German, French or American workers are in four.

This was followed by a panel discussion between employers and learners, with the audience especially keen to hear from the learners. The panel was made up of Alison Galvin, Chief People Officer of Invotra, Mark Wilson, Head of Talent Acquisition and Development at McLaren and Liza Smith, Employment and Skills Lead at the Berkeley Group. The panel was joined by two students from Esher 6th Form College and one student from Brooklands FE College.

The learners highlighted the complexity of going down the vocational route. They felt UCAS was a much more straightforward system “that has been done thousands of times before”, whereas many weren’t expecting the amount of bureaucracy involved in applying for apprenticeships. Galvin from Invotra shared that she felt schools still don’t encourage apprenticeships as much as university pathways.

The Surrey Skills Plan

The Surrey Skills Plan itself was introduced by Fiona Tuck and Nathan Wallwork both from Metro Dynamics.

The Surrey Skills Plan establishes the foundations for collective strategic work in delivering a skills system which incorporates the needs of businesses, skills providers, employees, and learners across Surrey. The plan seeks to drive change and sets out tangible actions for the next three years through four core objectives:

  1. Supporting Business: Help businesses prosper by making the skills system more responsive – both to immediate needs and those presented in the medium-longer term.
  2. Supporting People: Support inclusive access for Surrey’s residents to improved careers education, information and guidance, linked to clear learning, work and training pathways.
  3. Enabling Collaboration: Deliver a step change in Surrey’s skills system through enhanced and purposeful collaboration between and across businesses, anchor institutions and skills providers.
  4. Future Proofing: As part of a thematic focus on skills of the future, strengthen the pipeline of priority skills to meet employer demand, recognising the needs of both SMEs and larger businesses.

The plan includes the views of a wide variety of Surrey’s local businesses and providers, as well as local government and other relevant institutions.

Collaboration and networking

This focus on collaboration and action extended to the networking opportunities and breakout sessions nested within the event. These gave attendees an opportunity to consider the plan’s relevance to their own business context and begin making the connections necessary to make the plan a reality from the ground up.

With an emphasis on collaboration and inclusivity, the event sought to empower employers to be part of the strategic vision for Surrey’s skills system so that it continues to power the economic success of the county. This will be done by understanding and meeting the needs of Surrey’s world leading businesses as well as ensuring access to training for all residents.

By Jack Kennedy, Head of Economy and Growth, Surrey County Council

Jack joined Surrey County Council as Head of Economy and Growth in February 2022 to focus on the skills and inclusion agenda and to maximise opportunities for all within a balanced economy. Previously, he has worked elsewhere in local and central government, including at the Department for Education and the Department for International Trade.

Related Articles