Place-based collaboration: an update from Newport

Danny Price, Researcher, Learning and Work Institute


23 05 2024


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Building on the VocTech Challenge green and white papers, Ufi VocTech Trust (Ufi) and Learning and Work Institute (L&W) have developed a programme of place-based partnerships.

These partnerships have involved working with stakeholders in cities across the UK from the education, employment and skills sectors, to identify local barriers to participation in adult learning and develop approaches to address them.  

This blog sets out some of the themes emerging from early discussions held with stakeholders from Newport, our fourth and final place-based partnership. So far, L&W and Ufi have hosted two online workshops with key stakeholders from the local authority, adult education sector, and charity and voluntary organisations based in Newport and the wider South Wales region. 

Our conversations to date suggest that Newport residents face several barriers to engagement in learning including low levels of essential skills, a lack of formal qualifications and multiple challenges relating to accessibility. Additionally, residents tend to have a low awareness of existing opportunities that could enable them to overcome these barriers. Stakeholders also suggested that Newport’s proximity to Cardiff could result in Newport losing out on opportunities to the Capital.

Current provision

Despite these challenges, stakeholders highlighted several opportunities that could enable residents to build skills and experience for future learning or employment:

  • Opportunities in the adult education and skills sector. Stakeholders recognised that there are a range of opportunities for learners of different skill levels, including apprenticeships, the Multiply numeracy programme, UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) funded provision and a university campus located in the city. They noted that a key challenge is to raise awareness of this provision and break down dispositional barriers that may be deterring engagement, for example, low confidence and perceptions among learners that these opportunities are out of reach.
  • Good practice in the voluntary sector. Newport was said to have a thriving voluntary sector, which stakeholders saw as a potential stepping stone into employment. For example, stakeholders noted that the University of South Wales is collaborating with the voluntary sector to provide students with opportunities to build skills and experience.
  • Investment in the tech sector. Newport and the wider South Wales region has a growing tech sector, with recent investment from large employers including Airbus and Microsoft. Cardiff Capital Region have designed a learning programme focussed on cyber security, med tech, net zero and fintech, while a cyber security academy is located at the University of South Wales, Newport campus. A challenge noted by stakeholders is how to develop Newport residents’ digital skills to ensure they benefit from these opportunities.

Opportunities to work together

Based on these discussions, a clear challenge for Newport is helping learners to overcome barriers to accessing learning and development opportunities. To tackle this challenge, stakeholders suggested that a Newport-based collaboration could focus on: 

  • Using communications and awareness raising approaches to connect learners with opportunities to develop skills and gain work experience. 
  • Forging connections between the tech sector and voluntary organisations, the adult education sector and local authority to develop the digital skills needed for tech roles. 
  • Scoping work to clarify the range of existing opportunities in the city and the support that residents are entitled to that would enable participation. 

 Over the next few months, Ufi and L&W will continue to work closely with our partners in Newport. We welcome involvement from local organisations working in education, employment and skills and any feedback on our discussions to date.

Get involved

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