This third snapshot from our Skills Advisory Panel’s Local Skills Report focuses on a range of initiatives that are skilling people up to join the workforce.
A significant focus of the ESF (European Social Fund) programme in Norfolk and Suffolk has been on giving people who are out of work the skills and confidence to re-enter the workplace.
The £10.5m Building Better Opportunities programme, co-financed by the National Lottery Community Fund, is now well established, with four projects in Norfolk and Suffolk since 2017. These strong partnerships bring together high-quality delivery from across from the VCSE sector, as well as input from colleges, and have good results for their participants.
These projects have now been joined by Work Well Suffolk and CHANCES, focusing on good work outcomes for those with long-term health conditions, and by Routes to Work, which promotes sector opportunities. Alongside these, the LIFT Programme has provided smaller grants to VCSE organisations delivering targeted activity on a smaller scale.
All of the above projects have found that barriers to employment from mental illness and anxiety conditions have been more prevalent than expected among their participants. They have all been adapting their services to the emerging needs of a new cohort of unemployed people and adjusting referral routes which have been disrupted in the pandemic.
The training initiatives supported through European Social Fund have included the Skills Support for the Workforce, initially delivered by SEETEC and now Steadfast Training. This provides valuable training across all our key sectors and has been particularly successful during lockdown, when delivery moved to high-quality online provision, and successfully developed a redundancy training package. Steadfast is also involved in the Work Well Suffolk initiative, offering similar support.
More targeted training provision in ESF has included the Developing Skills in Health and Social Care initiative, an ambitious training and skills sector programme across Norfolk and Suffolk. The ESF programme in Norfolk and Suffolk has been particularly successful in delivering projects which connect the education sector more effectively with SMEs to provide in-college employer engagement and work experience opportunities. Place 21, delivered by West Suffolk College, has been an exemplar in this area and expanded and developed its vision with two new projects: NASCENT, and Higher Place, which moves into employer engagement in higher education delivery.
Insight Apprentice, delivered by Norfolk County Council, joins our existing apprenticeships projects – Apprenticeships Suffolk and Apprenticeships New Anglia. All are engaged with supporting SME employers and/or potential apprentices through the application process and early stages of the apprenticeship. The Youth Pledge for Employers led by Norfolk County Council, adds more capacity to the vital work of engaging busy SMEs with providing opportunities for young people. By offering work-inspiration, experience or employment opportunities, they are offering crucial support to shape the future workforce. Built flexibly so that businesses can engage in a way that fits with their needs, the scheme is collaborating with young person-facing organisations to realise these opportunities for 16-24-year-olds across the region.