Essex – developing a new approach and Skills Engine

The council is working closely with anchor institutions to identify the plans of large employers, mapping the asset base and developing a ‘Skills Engine’. This will support local recruitment and a drive to increase higher skilled and knowledge-intensive employment.


Background

Essex County Council has a unique opportunity to develop its skills and employment pipeline through a new partnership approach, capitalising on the Public Health England move to Harlow, a proposed new Princess Alexandra Hospital and the development of a Science Park. This combination of significant regeneration and investment opportunity provides a strong basis to further attract health, care and life science businesses and to support the growth and development of businesses already in these sectors.

Part of the strategy to grow these sectors requires new thinking to develop the skills base and encourage life-long learning to deliver a well-skilled pipeline of local residents that can fuel and grow this part of the economy. Second to this is the need to attract talent from other parts of the country and world to support innovations and learning on a global scale. Delivering both of these outcomes will require a strong partnership approach and long-term strategic vision to promote inclusive growth and economic opportunity. This will need to build on the M11 growth corridor and its business, education and public sector links. Essex also benefits from proximity to international gateways such as Stanstead and Southend Airports and Harwich Port.


The approach they are taking

Essex County Council are exploring the overall ambition of partners across the M11 Growth Corridor, to enable a skills concordat and a long-term vision. Essex is particularly keen to build on the emerging plans across north Essex and Hertfordshire and understand the challenges and opportunities in delivering life-long learning and skills development.

The council is working closely with anchor institutions to identify the plans of large employers, mapping the asset base and developing a ‘Skills Engine’. This will support local recruitment and a drive to increase higher skilled and knowledge-intensive employment.

In supporting the council, Shared Intelligence carried out some desk-research and facilitated a partnership meeting. In the desk-based work, examples of partnership structures across devolved and non-devolved administrations were reviewed, setting out the benefits and challenges of these structures and considering the detail of partnership terms of reference.

The partnership meeting itself included representatives from councils, Public Health England, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow College and One Nucleus life science and healthcare partnership. It sought to understand the level of shared ambition across the partners and inform the parameters in which a new partnership structure could be created.

There were several key themes which came from the discussion including:

  • Opportunities in the M11 Corridor and the role that partners can play
  • Geographical complexities with opportunity to deliver at scale
  • Demand-led thinking to enable skills provision to match employer demand
  • Governance structures and adopting the right format to enable the vision
  • Developing a new narrative for the Skills Engine to capitalise on place
  • Joining up working with a shared vision being crucial for the future of the area

Learning

The learning to come from the partnership meeting included the need to capitalise on the health, care and life science opportunities while working closely with education providers to ensure that the barriers to addressing this need can be removed. This will mean that a demand-led approach will need to be adopted in order to meet the needs of employers in the future. This will be even more important as the partners transition into a post-COVID world.

Other learning included the need for anchor institutions, already present and those soon to come to the area, to develop a stronger economic presence in the local community. This was identified as an essential ingredient to develop higher levels of interest in health, care and life science professions through engagement at primary and secondary schools, increased levels of work placements, apprenticeships and internships. In addition, it was identified that there was a need for a far-reaching publicity campaign to inform and encourage investors and inward investment to the area.