By Caroline Fox, CEO of Twin Employment & Training
At Twin Employment & Training, we strongly believe that devolution of responsibility for skills training and employability across England offers a great opportunity to be innovative in programme delivery and make a real impact on regional workforce development.
The Levelling Up white paper and the proposed county deals are going to boost opportunities further and we are ready to embrace them. Twin understands that different areas have different skills needs and this will be reflected in the priorities which are set out in mayoral skills strategies and resulting procurements. As an independent training provider (ITP) which delivers both employability and skills programmes, we have the flexibility to respond to varying demands.
Our partnerships with the Greater London Authority (GLA), West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and local authorities show that very impressive positive outcomes can be achieved for local communities. One of the keys to this is that we can build strong, working relationships and a shared vision with officials in the devolved employment and skills teams in a way which might be a challenge for a medium-sized provider delivering programmes nationally.
In common with other ITPs, employer engagement is within Twin’s DNA and we know how the combined and local authorities are keen to see more employment outcomes from their adult education budget (AEB) and other skills programmes. Increasing engagement with SMEs is arguably more important in the regions as well.
Skills bootcamps are a good example of a fresh approach in offering fleet-of-foot responses to rapidly changing local economic conditions and meeting employer demand in sectors such as digital and supporting businesses’ pursuit of carbon neutral strategies. In the West Midlands, the demand for cyber security skills is high and at the mid-point of our bootcamp delivery for WMCA in this sector, 48 of Twin’s learners have just completed a CompTia Cyber Security Course and passed the exam. Half of these completers have progressed into jobs already and another 16 learners are expected to secure employment by October, which means that 70% of the cohort will have landed jobs as a result of a 26-week short-course training programme. For a new programme, this is really something to build on and we look forward to working with WMCA and four other MCAs in delivering Wave 3.
Bootcamps are representative of moves towards more upskilling as opposed to an over-reliance perhaps on the attainment of ‘full fat’ qualifications. The development of the new Multiply programme as another form of short-course provision within the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is providing further evidence of the combined authorities and their partners coming up with innovative solutions which will tally with the employability agenda.
While the debate will continue around funding rule consistencies between central government and the devolved authorities, it is our belief that devolution can achieve more in terms of join-up between employability and skills because there is only one main commissioning body in each region.
Twin is always looking for potential join-up in its programme delivery and we are also committed to supporting the elected mayors’ desire for more inclusive provision, recognising the importance of level 2 and 3 learning to get local people in urban and rural areas onto the skills ladder. In addition to Multiply, we will be working with our sister company 3SC and partners to show employers and DWP, ESFA and MoJ contractors how neuro-diverse strategy coaching and mentoring can make a real difference – for example by fully realising the potential of autistic employees, enabling the talents of people with learning needs or disabilities and supporting neuro-diverse people on probation to make better lifestyle choices.
The diversity of our learners matters to us. Delivered on behalf of the GLA, Twin’s Level 3 ESOL & Literacy training for teachers is notable for the fact that about 70% of the mostly female participants are from ethnic minority backgrounds. 592 starts on the programme in the capital have led to 498 qualifications completed to-date which is well ahead of our GLA target.
With the recent acquisition of another provider, we are completing the employability and skills jigsaw by offering good apprenticeship and traineeship provision across several key sectors to complement existing AEB and other delivery. It’s not simply a case of us having all bases covered; we believe that the join-up offers more opportunities to our learners for progression after completing their courses and qualifications. We are also partnering with several universities and colleges on industry placements here and Turing Scheme placements abroad which often greatly increase students’ self-confidence for achieving their ambitions.
We are now looking forward to working with more devolved authorities on the implementation of Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) and the roll-out of UKSPF programmes, supporting priority sectors in each region and elevating ‘levelling-up’ from more than just a soundbite.
By Caroline Fox, CEO of Twin Employment & Training