Portsmouth’s Business Leaders and colleges working closely to improve Skills & Employability

During the first Portsmouth & District Business Week, which ran from the 5th to the 9th of July and was organised by the Portsmouth & District Business Strategy Group as part of the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, we at Shaping ran our first Business Leaders Group (BLG) meeting since the Autumn of 2019.

The topic of discussion was the recent UK Government white paper and its focus on the need for Business and FE Colleges to work closer together to ensure that 16-18 year olds are coming through the FE system with the skills and experiences they will need to take the opportunities presented by our City’s Businesses. Over 40 Businesses attended, along with the three Principals from our travel learn Colleges: City of Portsmouth, Fareham & HSDC.

Shaping CEO Stef Nienaltowski said “The event was a brilliant success and the three Principals gave their own view on the white paper, followed by three break out sessions, led by each of the Principals, that went into more detail. We then came back into an open Q&A session which was really broad and thought provoking.
The importance to get this relationship sustainable and two-way is paramount to Shaping’s skills and employability strategy. Look out for more activity on this most important of subjects.”

A recording of the session can be viewed here.

Andrew Kaye, Principal and Chief Executive of Fareham College, said “I was delighted to be asked to be part of the discussion around the Further Education Whitepaper and the role employers will have in the future of technical and professional further education. In my experience, employers are becoming increasingly active in their engagement with Further Education providers as they look to them to support with the recruitment, reskilling and retraining of their workforce. Colleges are able to act as expert advisors to employers to help them identify the training their businesses need and to help them understand the different funding routes available to support training and development. It was interesting to hear from employers their positive view of higher level technical qualifications and apprenticeships as valuable alternatives to university degrees. The employers attending the event were very interested to know more about new T Level qualifications for 16-18 year olds and I was pleased to be able to share how successful these have been in their first year at Fareham College.”

Simon Barrable, Principal at Portsmouth College, said “It was a pleasure to be a part of the Business Leaders Group FE White Paper discussion. It was really useful to be able to outline some of the key features of this forthcoming legislation, which has major implications for how colleges and employers work together going forward. Even more importantly, it was great to be able to listen to the views of local business leaders on their skills gaps and people needs. This absolutely needs to be just the start of that ongoing conversation and ever closer working between us for the good of the city and beyond.”

Mike Gaston, Principal & CEO of HSDC, said “It was a pleasure to be involved in this event. The Portsmouth and District Business Week has been interesting to watch develop. I was delighted to join this event with my fellow college leaders to give my thoughts on the direction of travel of vocational and technical training, the funding opportunities and restraints and to be able to give updates on the development of T Levels and refurbishments taking place on our campuses. Colleges are businesses themselves. we do understand the importance of getting things right as it affects the business if we don’t. Getting the opportunity to talk directly to the local business leaders helps me gain invaluable intelligence on what is happening locally and this in turn enables me and my colleagues to react accordingly. I would welcome the opportunity to keep the dialogue open in such a forum. It would be a shame to lose any momentum in the conversations that the PDbizweek has developed.”

Aaron Butson, Assistant Principal for Work-Based Learning at HSDC and Chair of the Portsmouth Business Strategy Group, adds “The inaugural Portsmouth and District Business Week was a challenge to put together as we tried to put on a variety of sessions to meet as many different business needs as possible. Some focused on accessing funding, some on how to focus on your own wellbeing and some were purely networking events. The BLG session with Colleges was particularly important for me. Enabling business leaders to talk directly to the leaders of our colleges in the region seems a very sensible thing to do. It is incredibly important for colleges to know what businesses need. It is also equally important for businesses to learn about the vast array of funded training that is available. If we continue the conversation, then we will develop the right dialogue to ensure both parts of this puzzle work together to ensure we are developing young people to meet the skills demand for now and the future.”