Take action to connect skills to critical needs, say local business

31 January 2022

Today, (31st January 2022) marks the publication of a five-priority skills action plan for Bedfordshire, Luton, Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire. The plan responds directly to the changing employment market and skills mismatches reported by business as they seek to overcome today’s economic challenges and take opportunities for business growth.  

Building on the progress of many skills-focused investments over recent years, agreed actions for 2022 involve the full spectrum of education and training provision available. They connect the different approaches to developing and strengthening the talent pipeline of people from age eight to 68 and, places attention on the occupations in demand today, whilst planning for the workforce of the future.

Activities include:

  1. Informing: putting greater emphasis on collecting and sharing information on the current local labour market to help people, especially young people, make more informed decisions about their job options.
  2. Inspiring: by sharing experiences, supporting employers to interact more with their future workforce and promoting the variety of different pathways available in helping people develop meaningful careers.
  3. Investing: joining up investment in facilities, programmes, and business support to enable a coordinated response to the different skills needs of business.

In this second annual skills plan, published by the Skills Advisory Panel for the South East Midlands, agreed joint activities respond directly to the live experiences reported by many local business owners who are currently facing issues with recruiting and retaining employees. The plan draws from the results of a SEMLEP business survey of over 1800 local businesses as well as the latest analysis of economic data and trends for the South East Midlands economic area.

Pat Brennan-Barrett, Principal and CEO of Northampton College and Chair of the SEMLEP Skills Advisory Panel said, “by working together with multiple agencies responsible for education and skills, government, businesses, young people and their families, we can connect both employers to learners and, crucially, skills provision to the needs of businesses.”

The biggest changes in the skills and employment landscape across the area recently include logistics specific job vacancies being up 87% compared to those18 months prior, with digital-related job vacancies up 50% in the same period.

Paul Thompson, Employment and Skills Manager at SEMLEP said, “we have such a dynamic labour market in this area currently due to a range of factors. These include national policy changes that have affected training and provision, leaving the EU, an aging demographic and, fast growth in some sectors. These all point to the need for greater collaboration and flexibility from people with interests in employment and skills to address the changing needs of employers and individuals.”

Pat added, “the aim of this annual plan and of the wider activities of the Skills Advisory Panel is to help put data-led and evidence from employers at the heart of the national and local skills systems to create a better future for us all.”

Local councils, skills providers and businesses have already done a lot to identify and raise the profile of skills needs, provision and requirements for today’s economy and those predicted for the future.

Richard Osborne, founder and CEO of Business Data Group Ltd and volunteer business Enterprise Adviser commented, “we live in an exciting part of the country, full of potential. But are we doing enough to inspire and inform our young people about the skills they need, or the opportunities and the pathways available to them? I think the answer to this question is, we need to do more.

“As this area looks to business growth, we must create the workforce able and capable of fulfilling our local business opportunity.”

To read the full Skills Plan, including an overview of the current support programmes and investments in skills available to businesses and individuals who live and work in the South East Midlands, visit: 


About Local Skills Plans

The Skills Plan is published by the South East Midlands Skills Advisory Panel (SAP) facilitated by SEMLEP. The Department for Education (DfE) supports SAPs with grant funding to produce analysis of local labour markets and produce local skills reports. These reports set out local skills strengths and needs, and how the SAP proposes its area addresses its skills priorities.

The local skills reports provide local intelligence into central government, including to sectoral focussed skills team and the national Skills and Productivity Board.