From education to employment

£165 million fund launched to transform Local Skills Improvement Fund (LSIF)

students sat working together

Local communities across the country are set to benefit from a share of £165 million to transform skills training in their area and help get more people into jobs closer to home.

Further education providers are invited to apply for cash from the Local Skills Improvement Fund [LSIF], which will be used to renovate facilities with up-to-date equipment, help to upskill teachers, and deliver new courses in key subjects such as green construction, carbon capture and cyber security that meet the needs of local employers. This means that wherever there are skills black holes, they will now be filled.

Thousands of people will benefit from this boost to skills training, helping them secure good jobs close to where they live. It will also provide a boost to local economies, as employers will have access to a workforce which is equipped with the specific skills businesses need to grow.

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said:

“Building a world-class skills and apprenticeships nation means listening to the specific needs of local people, businesses, and institutions.

“This funding will revolutionise how we plug local skills gaps and provide a boost to the economy. Supporting colleges to better meet the needs of local employees not only boosts businesses, it extends the ladder of opportunity to even more people from all backgrounds who will be equipped with the skills they need to secure a rewarding job close to home.”

Successful applicants will receive funding to invest in a broad range of initiatives that respond to the specific priorities identified in each area’s Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP). The plans have been created by employer representative bodies in every region of the country and set out the key priorities and changes needed in each area to make post-16 technical training more closely aligned to local labour market needs.

The initiative builds on the success of the Strategic Development Fund, which has already made £157 million available to the FE sector to invest in a range of projects that have had a huge impact on plugging skills gaps in communities up and down the country. This includes investment in the equipment and facilities needed to upskill people in areas such as electric and hybrid vehiclemaintenance, automation and artificial intelligence.

New City College is part of the collaborative Green Academy Partnership of 13 colleges across London which received a share of £961k revenue and £1.5m capital SDF funding for Green Labs, with investment in key technologies in the low carbon and renewables sector.

Jamie Stevenson, Group Executive Director at New City College said:

“Being the project lead for the Central London Forward SDF project has enabled us, alongside local employers and stakeholders, to pioneer a new way of working. From the project’s inception, we have worked collaboratively to identify and meet the local need for high quality technical training to develop green skills. This has included upskilling teaching staff and setting an industry-leading standard for low carbon energy learning labs.

“The SDF has made an important contribution to local people and employers in Central London by providing access to green skills training which supports people to get a good job or further develop their career in the low carbon energy sector, enabling us to work towards meeting the 2050 net zero challenge.”

Weston College is one of four colleges in the West of England which received a share of £1.2m revenue and £1.5m capital SDF funding to invest in training and state-of-the-art equipment for the Aerospace, Advanced Engineering and Health and Social Care sectors to meet the urgent skills needs of the region and the pace of technological development.

Sir Paul Phillips CBE, Principal and Chief Executive of Weston College said:

“This funding has been a catalyst for change for our delivery of skills in the West of England, bringing together educational providers and employers around the table to ensure partnerships are both proactive and effective.

“We have been able to use the funds to tailor provision to employer needs but also to ensure it fits with the regions we serve. It is absolutely important that this ground breaking work continues to advance with the flexibilities to match each area’s priorities and the specialist skills needed for the industries that are so key to both our regional and national economic growth.”

Sector Response

Matt Ravenhill, Director, EMEA Corporate Learning at D2L said:

“The government and enterprises have a joint responsibility to help prepare individuals for the jobs of tomorrow. However, to truly deliver skills for life and meet the needs of local communities, there needs to be a serious cultural change in the way we deliver learning. The new local skills fund should be used in accordance with ongoing business challenges and the current job market. Especially if we are looking to fill roles or gaps that require the more complex skills and far personalised or tailored learning pathways.

“The government needs to communicate with businesses when allocating these funds to courses and work far more closely with industry experts to ensure that the needs of that specific industry are being addressed. For example, it may be more useful to a business and the employee, to deliver shorter courses, using blended learning, maybe even part-time around work schedules to compliment current learning objectives. However, these need to be flexible and tailored training programmes that enable workers top up or fine tune their skills on a regular basis. 

“Shorter courses, such as micro-credentials, can also provide routes into alternative areas of work, such as automation, AI and green construction where there are currently gaps, for those who may wish to explore new opportunities or develop a broader set of skills at pace. These courses can be delivered ‘on demand’ through flexible learning pathways that provide a way to rapidly upskill or train employees of all experience levels in targeted areas. By doing so, organisations can customise skills sets for specific individuals and adapt their courses to fit specific business needs should circumstances change. Training can also be easily integrated into current workplaces and around busy schedules.”

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