Agenda item

Six monthly report on the Greater Cambridge City Deal Skills Service

To consider the attached report.


The Executive Board:


(a)        NOTED that the November six monthly report will share the findings from the interim evaluation and ask the Board to consider the future funding position for the service.


(b)        NOTED the significant changes that are due from April 2017 with respect to the transformation of apprenticeships (the shift from apprenticeship frameworks to employer led apprenticeship standards) and the introduction of the employer apprenticeship levy.


The Executive Board considered a report which set out progress of the City Deal Skills Service to date and its achievement against key performance indicators.


Neil Darwin, Chief Executive of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership, presented the report and highlighted that the aim of the Skills Service was to help to achieve the City Deal objectives of promoting an additional 420 apprenticeships over the first five years of the Deal in areas aligned with the City Deal’s growth sectors and generally support the employability of young people.  Mr Darwin highlighted that significant changes, introduced by the Government, would shortly be made to apprenticeships and would essentially see apprenticeship schemes become employer led rather than led by the provider community.  The devolution proposal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough also had the potential to introduce further changes, together with an Area Review that had recently been undertaken involving further education and how colleges worked.  These factors therefore had fundamental impacts on how providers would work and operate in the future in respect of delivering and supporting apprenticeships in the Greater Cambridge area.  


Mr Darwin emphasised that more engagement would be required with businesses in order to promote the benefits of apprenticeships and help employers better understand where apprenticeships could fit into and benefit their businesses.  He envisaged working with the Joint Assembly’s Skills Working Group to consider how the City Deal could influence employers in this way.


It was noted that the Skills Service contract commenced on 1 September 2015 and was approaching the end of the first year of delivery, which focussed on the following areas:


·         delivering events and activities that provided young people with information on the local economy and expectations of employers;

·         delivering apprenticeships events and providing information relating to apprenticeships to employers, young people, parents and staff in school;

·         engaging employers and connecting them to schools and apprenticeship providers;

·         supporting the development of strategic relationships between schools and employers.


Mr Darwin reported that Form the Future was reporting good progress against the key performance indicators in the contract for the Skills Service, meeting all targets and in some cases meeting them comfortably.  The report included a table for frameworks or sector subjects included in the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 academic years, with the 2013/2014 data being used as a baseline on the basis of this reflecting a full academic year prior to the establishment of the City Deal Partnership. 


Councillor Roger Hickford, Chairman of the Joint Assembly, reported that the Joint Assembly had considered this report at its meeting on 7 July 2016. He reported that the recommendations contained within the report received unanimous support, but that the Assembly saw the target of 420 apprenticeships as a minimum and expected many more to be achieved.  A concern was raised at the meeting in respect of dropout rates and it was noted that there was currently a 71% completion rate of apprenticeship schemes in the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough area.  It was noted that Members of the Assembly also agreed that more communication was required in terms of promoting more widely this strand of the City Deal and better explaining what it sought to achieve. 


Councillor Hickford explained that the Joint Assembly, in addition to the recommendations set out in the report, had proposed a further recommendation to continue the work of the Joint Assembly Skills Working Group. 


Councillor Tim Bick, Member of the Joint Assembly, expanded on the valuable work the Skills Working Group had carried out to date.  He reported that a lot of its work so far had been determining the definition of what was meant by the specific target of 420 additional apprenticeships, adding that it had been challenging to define the baseline.  The Group also significantly considered stem subjects and whether they should be counted by the area the apprentice lived, where the training provider was based or the location of the employer.  It was noted that a decision was made to count apprenticeships based on the location of the employer.  Councillor Bick referred to the table in the report which provided a trajectory of apprenticeship schemes that had commenced in 2014 and 2015, stating that this demonstrated apprenticeships in stem subjects were moving in the right direction but not yet at a rate fast enough to meet the target of 420.


Councillor Bick reiterated Mr Darwin’s comments, saying that the skills agenda was further complicated by the imminent Area Based Review, the result of the EU Referendum and devolution proposals for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, with uncertainty about investment in the area and a potential skills shortage in the future being key issues.  He supported the view that more could be done to engage with employers to stimulate apprenticeship schemes where they did not currently exist, clearly identifying the benefits that apprenticeships could provide to their businesses.  Councillor Bick felt that the Executive Board should be alerted to the fact that it may need to consider putting in place additional funding or resources to ensure that the target of 420 additional apprenticeships was met.  He also saw the Working Group as having an important role to undertake in supporting delivery of the City Deal objective in this respect.


Councillor Lewis Herbert, Chairman of the Executive Board, welcomed the recommendation from the Joint Assembly in respect of the Skills Working Group, acknowledging its important role to date. 


Councillor Francis Burkitt queried the definition of the target of 420 apprenticeships, referring to a South Cambridgeshire District Council Cabinet report in 2014 stating that it related to 16 to 23 year olds in contrast to the report at this meeting stating that the target was not age specific.  He was concerned about this discrepancy and felt that the Skills Service should be measuring what was originally intended to be measured.  Mr Darwin informed the Executive Board that he would confirm this point with the Skills Funding Agency.


In addition, Councillor Burkitt requested further information on the levels of apprenticeship associated with the target, which he understood to be non-graduate levels at 2 and 3.  He felt that this breakdown was missing from the report.  Mr Darwin agreed to include clarity around the levels of apprenticeship schemes in future progress reports.


Councillor Burkitt reflected on the decision that had been taken to count apprenticeships based on where the employer was based rather than where the person lived or where the provider was located.  He made the point that if someone who lived outside of the Greater Cambridge area accessed an apprenticeship scheme at an employer located in the area, this was essentially providing an opportunity for someone outside of the remit of the City Deal and therefore questioned why that should be counted towards the target.  Councillor Bick, as a Member of the Working Group that determined this issue, responded by saying that the main objective behind the City Deal was to improve the local economy.  It was in this context that it had been determined to count apprenticeships based on the location of the employer.


Councillor Burkitt referred to the apprenticeship framework list, which included 203 frameworks.  He highlighted that the column on the list entitled sector subjects was much more useful and noted that 16 sector subjects were included, making the point that subjects such as life sciences had been omitted.  Mr Darwin agreed that the framework list needed reviewing, confirming that this would be undertaken and a proposal brought back to the Joint Assembly and Executive Board for consideration in due course. 


In terms of the target of 420 apprenticeships, Councillor Burkitt agreed with the Joint Assembly’s aspiration of achieving more than that initial target and suggested the introduction of a stretch target, once confirmation had been received in respect of the age range of apprenticeships that would be counted towards the City Deal’s target.  Mr Darwin supported this suggestion.


Councillor Burkitt highlighted that the report scheduled for reporting back to the Board in November 2016 would include consideration towards the future funding position for the Skills Service.  He questioned whether consideration to a results-based model would be included as part of this process.  Mr Darwin confirmed that this would be looked into.  Further work would also be undertaken around services to schools and a potential model for schools to purchase the specific support they needed.


Councillor Ian Bates sought greater involvement, engagement and connectivity with niche markets in the Greater Cambridge area and was supportive of the continuation of the Skills Working Group. 


Councillor Herbert welcomed the partnership working that had occurred with this project and felt that it was right to review the areas that had been highlighted.


The Executive Board:


(a)        NOTED that the November six monthly report will share the findings from the interim evaluation and ask the Board to consider the future funding position for the service.


(b)        NOTED the significant changes that are due from April 2017 with respect to the transformation of apprenticeships (the shift from apprenticeship frameworks to employer led apprenticeship standards) and the introduction of the employer apprenticeship levy.

Supporting documents: