Skills Strategy ‘integral’ to delivering a county of opportunity for all our residents and businesses

01 Mar 21

Over 170 key decision makers came together to take forward a joined-up countywide approach to skills and employment to support Hertfordshire’s long-term economic growth and future prosperity. Stakeholders from across business, local government and education participated in a second webinar on 25th February to help re-shape the Hertfordshire Skills and Employment Strategy in the light of COVID-19 and provide a route-map for recovery and sustainable growth up to 2024.

The pandemic has had a particularly adverse effect on the employment opportunities of the classes of 2020/21 and other school leavers, apprentices and older workers with those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (BAME), people with a disability, women and the lower-paid in society disproportionately affected. The strategy is being updated for a third time to reflect the current economic landscape and continue to provide collective leadership on skills development.

Cllr Terry Douris, Executive Member, Education, Libraries & Localism said: “Hertfordshire County Council is proud to be partnering with Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, the Department of Work and Pensions and many local stakeholders to develop the strategy and tackle the skills and employment issues facing the county.

“Hertfordshire is a great place to live and work – we want to ensure that it remains a county of opportunity for all our residents and businesses – the strategy is integral to that vision.”

The audience then heard from Lucy Childs, a business administration apprentice with Hertfordshire County Council, who set out why she chose an apprenticeship pathway and how this has enabled her to progress in her choice of career.

Delegates were placed into breakout rooms to discuss the strategy’s emerging themes:

  • Young People and Emerging Talent – led by Mark Lewis, Head Teacher of Thomas Alleynes Academy;
  • Adult employment and life-long learning – led by Lynsi Hayward-Smith CBE, Chair of Hertfordshire Adult and Family Learning Service (HAFLS);
  • Skills for Business – led by Professor Julie Newlan MBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire;
  • Priority Sectors – led by Neil Hayes, Chief Executive of Hertfordshire LEP;
  • Place-making – led by Cllr Linda Haysey, Leader of East Herts District Council.

Stakeholders were also asked to consider the emerging cross-cutting themes focusing on:

  • Enhancing digital skills: to ensure Hertfordshire fully maximizes its potential;
  • Supporting Hertfordshire’s ‘Net Zero future’: to drive Hertfordshire’s move to clean growth;
  • Social inclusion and diversity: to creates opportunities for all by putting in place strategies to encourage greater social mobility.

Professor Julie Newlan MBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of Hertfordshire, reporting back on some of the barriers facing SMEs, said: “There was a sense post-Brexit, post-pandemic and with digital acceleration, businesses require more advice on what their skills needs are. Employers also need to reach out more to other groups, such as ex-offenders, if we are to make our workforces more diverse. There was also a need expressed for greater clarification and simplification around funding, as well as more flexibility.”

The strategy sits alongside Hertfordshire’s wider Economic Recovery Plan, Unlocking Hertfordshire, which puts people at the heart of recovery. It will also seek to address the impact of EU Transition, focusing on Hertfordshire’s workforce and labour migration.

The strategy has been in place since 2015 and is a dynamic driver of enterprise, investment and key sector growth by helping to ensure that the county’s workforce and future labour needs are best equipped to meet employers’ needs. It is produced by Hertfordshire LEP, Hertfordshire County Council and the Department for Work and Pensions and was last revised in 2017.

The event was opened and chaired by Adrian Hawkins OBE, Chair of Hertfordshire LEP's Skills and Employment Board, who said: “The Government’s ‘Skills for Jobs’ White Paper puts employers first and provides the framework and financial commitment to make post-16 skills provision work. The Skills Strategy has a vital role to play by spearheading skills programmes in our regions that specifically meet the needs of local business and residents.

“We know that the skills landscape is about to become even busier and possibly more confusing and simplicity is essential. Here in Hertfordshire we are very fortunate to have the Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal (HOP) which provides concise information for employers including case studies, step-by-step guides and signposting. Our campaign, Hertfordshire Supports Apprenticeships, also sends out a very simple message that apprenticeships and traineeships are valued options and can raise the skills and productivity levels of those already in work.

“If there is one action we can all take away from today then that is to make full use of HOP. It is not owned by any one organisation; it is owned, in fact, by Hertfordshire and it is incumbent on each and every one of us to maximise its potential.”

The Skills and Employment Strategy will be drafted in March with the final version published in June. If you have any further questions on the strategy, please email Caroline Cartwright, Hertfordshire LEP's Skills, Employment and Apprenticeship Lead, at [].

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