A NEW consortium of Cumbria’s colleges and university aims to be at the forefront of tackling the skills gap in the county.

Skillshub Cumbria is a collaboration between Carlisle College, Furness College, Kendal College, Lakes College and the University of Cumbria to put the needs of employers at the heart of the Further and Higher Education offering in the county.

The project, which is led by Lakes College, aims to support local employers in developing the skilled employees and apprentices they need to support economic growth for Cumbria.

Part of the plan to ensure that happens includes launching one-to-one entrepreneurship clinics and new commercial courses, developing new facilities aimed at strengthening links between companies and educators, and embedding employer engagement in the curriculum development process.

Victoria Morgan, Lakes College’s business engagement manager, said: “Skillshub Cumbria’s aim is to meet the needs of local employers and improve employer engagement with skills providers.

“An example of this is the work that we are producing in relation to curriculum development.

“This work involves the mapping of the curriculum of the four colleges and the University of Cumbria against Cumbria LEP priorities and labour market intelligence.

“This will provide an overall visual map of current provision and identify gaps in curriculum by sector.

“Local Skills Improvement Plans findings and recommendations are also being mapped against this provision to ensure the data is up to date and valid.

“Where gaps arise, new curriculum will be developed.”

There are already examples of new curriculum successfully being developed or in the pipeline, including a Level 4 Quality Practitioner course which was created due to employers being unable to find a similar course in the county.

A Level 4 Construction Design & Build Technician apprenticeship and Sustainability courses from Level 2 to 4 have also been developed.

Suzanne Caldwell, managing director of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “If you don’t have the skills needed in an economy, its businesses, and therefore its people, won’t be successful.

“If people have the right attitude and aptitude we can train in skills.

“So, the right skills provision is fundamental, and technologies and methodologies keep changing and new industries emerge, so we all need to keep developing too.

“It’s vital that training providers meet employer needs, now and for the future, whether that’s skills or how and when training is delivered.

“That’s not just the biggest or those with most time to engage.

“In Cumbria’s LSIP we’ve set out a plan for doing this with genuine reach into the breadth of the business community.

“LSIPs are about identifying employer needs and ensuring providers cater for those.

“The employer bodies partnered in the LSIP are working closely with providers, with an agreed plan to take that forward.”

The Skillshub Cumbria project has also involved the launch of a new website, http://www.skillshubcumbria.ac.uk, which highlights opportunities to learn and train in Cumbria, promotes examples of how employers are shaping Further Education and Higher Education in the county, and provides an easy access point for employers keen to get involved.

Posted 26th April 2022