Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership

Smooth transition from school to workplace is vital

Published 20th April 2016 at 10:25am

By Nigel Brewster, Vice Chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP

One of the key arguments put forward for devolution for the Sheffield City Region was the need for a seamless journey from an education fit for purpose, to skills development, and on to employment.

Our local leaders, through this strategy, would enable local people to take advantage of those opportunities.

We said this would create an ‘at work’ City Region to help those who are furthest from the labour market, reducing dependency and increasing employment by 70,000 – the vision of our Strategic Economic Plan.

And earlier this month the House of Lords issued a headline-catching report on young people’s social mobility.

It said: “The transition from school into work is a vital point in the lives of young people. Making a successful transition through a high quality and valued pathway can mean a successful career. Becoming trapped in poor quality and under-valued alternatives can mean a lifetime of poverty.”

So when the nine local authorities in the region ratified our devolution deal with central Government last month, they opened the door to a new future.

A future where our young people have the skills and the employability they need and we need. A workforce that will be flexible and adaptable as the workplace is shaped by local and global trends.

For overseas investors and foreign-owned companies based here, that is tremendously important.

Skills and training are among the key aspects they ask about, and we are able to give them a very positive answer.

In 2012 we were the first region in the country to get devolved adult skills funding through our City Deal. We looked long and hard at how to use it to best effect. So now we have our forward-looking ‘Skills Bank’ ready to invest in skills and expertise and the additional funds to drive business growth in the local economy.

The Bank allows employers to create a training package which is right for their business, and to receive funding for the majority of the cost.

But it doesn’t stop there. Looking at how education and employment interact, we will continue to seek more powers to make our plans really relevant.

For example, I don’t believe the current pupil work experience adds much value. It would be far more effective to use those two weeks in a teenager’s life to introduce them to the next step in education – in training, College, or an apprenticeship. And for older pupils, some experience of University life and how to live on your own would be invaluable.

Another idea I’d like to pursue is that apprenticeships need one central point where young people and their families can see all the opportunities open to them. They should be able to apply simply and quickly, and to see how effective and supportive – or otherwise – employers and the associated providers are.

And if we can track the NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training) more efficiently, we can step in much more quickly to work out why and how and where those young people need help before they slip into a lifetime of unemployment.

Many of the jobs we will be doing in 10 years don’t exist yet. So it’s difficult to predict with any certainty what education and skills will be needed. But I do know that our workforce will need to be prepared to learn and adapt to what will be required of them. They need relevant social skills. And that’s what I hope and plan to provide in this region.

Many employers ask for job candidate’s CVs. However, the ability to gain GCSEs does not on its own guarantee a good employee. So as a recruitment specialist I’m interested in the technique used by one of the UK’s most prestigious retail chains. They test the candidate’s values and approach to work and their likelihood of having the ability to do the job. They know they can provide their staff with the skills and expertise to do the job; what they need are people with the right attitude.

The ratification of the Devolution deal means that we can plan and deliver more difficult tasks. We will be banging on Government’s doors for greater powers.

That will enable us to see the devolution journey through, from education to skills to employability.

The Sheffield City Region has:

  • 8 high-performing further education colleges
  • Over 20,000 apprenticeships annually
  • The National College for High Speed Rail, opening in September 2017, which will cater for 1050 students on four specialist pathways –
  • track rolling stock
  • railway infrastructure
  • traction power supply and distribution
  • business management and operation planning

The House of Lords report ‘Overlooked and left behind: improving the transition from school to work for the majority of young people can be seen at

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