News & blogs Blogs Skill Up Bucks: the value of aligning education and employment in Buckinghamshire Buckinghamshire’s 2021 Local Skills Report* highlights a worrying skills-drain as much of the local talent moves out of the area, drawn towards London. A key objective for our new employability programme, Skill Up Bucks, is to build stronger links between local employers and students, forging relationships early so that young people understand there are many opportunities for them nearer to home. Skill Up Bucks is an employability programme that creates opportunities for people aged 17+ to meet and interact with employers. It aligns schools, colleges and local employers to provide work experience opportunities for anyone living in Buckinghamshire, and aims to develop both the skills pool and opportunities within the county. The programme provides SMEs with a voice within local higher education centres and the wider community, including their Local Enterprise Partnership, allowing them to influence the skills being learned and preparing a future job market for local opportunities, to the advantage of the local economy. Opportunities to learn The programme will present important learning opportunities for all stakeholders. For SMEs who have an interest in nurturing local talent and influencing the skills being developed locally, but lack the mechanism to do so, our Employer Brokerage Advisers will offer information and guidance on opportunities such as apprenticeships, Kickstart roles or T-Level traineeships and will support them to begin the process. An Employer brokerage adviser is available at the end of the phone to guide them through those first steps, transforming engagement with local talent from an idea to an actionable process. Meanwhile, for students and jobseekers Skill Up Bucks will provide careers advice and employer contacts so they may have exposure to what a particular career or role is like, what qualifications they need for the job and how best to prepare for the sector. This information is not always easily available, so by providing them with real-life experience we can arm them to make informed career decisions. A feast of useful interactions Skill Up Bucks is an evolving programme, and whilst our focus is to support SMEs, businesses of all sizes can get involved. There is no single, perfect solution to align students and jobseekers with employers. Open days, recruitment events, mentoring and work experience will all feature heavily, but our cross-organisational project team is also going out to employers and the community right now to build and refine the most effective interactions. Whether an employer wants to be involved in job fairs, visits to schools and colleges, or provide events where jobseekers can “sample” activities relating to their specific professional roles, we will assist them to find the perfect solution. These events will build awareness and spark interest among learners (17+ in particular) about employment sectors, helping them discover which sectors or functions are the best match for their talents. Everyone can get involved SMEs may have limited resources for community engagement, but even providing a few hours’ mentorship for a student or jobseeker to advise them on routes into a specific career or informing them on the daily reality of the job would be of great benefit. Whether an SME can support a single one-off session or invest resource in developing multiple sessions all will add great value to Skill Up Bucks, meaning that even the smallest local business can play a valuable part. A bridge to the LEP Skill Up Bucks will give participating employers a voice within their Local Enterprise Partnership Board. It will allow them to share information about their workforce skills profiles in the knowledge that gaps and requirements will be discussed at a strategic level by Board members representing a variety of sectors. These discussions can influence local funding, so by joining the Skill Up Bucks programme, SMEs will gain critical exposure. The scarcity of skilled candidates entering Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics-related professions (the STEM sector) is widely acknowledged, and a problem for the country as a whole. Skill Up Bucks will aim to tackle this, with a range of STEM events and interactions that I hope encourage more young people into highly-skilled roles within these broad markets. But there will be more areas of focus than these alone; Skill Up Bucks will represent and attempt to answer the needs of the county’s employers as a whole. How employers can give and receive help At this early stage of the programme we welcome mentors and ambassadors who can set an example to young people and inspire them, from women in STEM to anyone keen to inspire in young minds a fascination with their own career. But Skill Up Bucks is about helping employers too. A big part of this project will be about providing support that enables employers to engage with young people effectively. We’ll provide guidance on how to take on apprentices, how to provide useful work experience and accommodate placements, the paperwork and logistics required for compliant placements and more. The programme will require some social investment from employers, but it will provide a great deal of support to them too. How can I get involved? Anyone keen to get involved – either employers, individuals or education centres – can contact [email protected] and a specialist adviser will be in touch. *Buckinghamshire’s Local Skills Report, March 2021: https://www.buckstvlep.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Buckinghamshire-Local-Skills-Report-2021-1.pdf A White Paper on local skills provision in the county, published in March 2021. European Social Fund The project is funded by the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England. The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme. Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.