BES minutes 21 March 2024

Meeting details

Date and time: 21 March 2024, 1pm to 3pm.

Location: East Sussex College and OHM Energy Green Training Hub, Eastbourne.

Theme: SME Company Funding with Barclays, NatWest, Metro Bank, Handelsbanken, Let’s Do Business, FRP Advisory.

1. Welcome and introductions

1.1  PH welcomed everyone to the meeting.  Introductions were made.

1.2  PH asked the meeting to approve the minutes of the last meeting, no objections were raised, and the minutes were approved.

2. Round table updates

2.1  Lorraine Bell, University of Brighton.

2.2  Programme update on innovation programme. Growth and management training available. Also tech, manufacturing (data analytics and software – not mechanical) and degree level apprenticeships. Levels 5-7.

2.3  Looking for engagement from more businesses. Collaborate leaflet now available – distributed.

2.4  Knowledge Transfer Partnership new programme scheduled.

2.5  Net zero 360 programmes running to upskill businesses (free of charge). On 20th May 9.30am to 4.00pm for Eastbourne and Lewes businesses. In Wealden on 20th June from 9.30am to 4.00pm.

2.6  Grant available in Newhaven. 50% off the cost of renewable energy. Energy efficiency upgrades up to £25,000. See Clean Growth website. Help to Grow 12 week leadership programme. See University of Brighton website. Cost is £750 with some subsidised places available.

2.7  Mitchell Offord, SB Improvements, Business Improvement techniques course available, government funded.

2.8  Ian Noble, Uckfield Chamber. Active events calendar also offers a Charity Mentors scheme.

2.9  Clive Soper, Hailsham Chamber. Active chamber. Working on creating a Business Improvement District.

2.10  Christina Ewbank, Edeal Enterprise Agency. Went through the free training, start-ups and business mentoring available in Wealden and Eastbourne. See the Edeal website. The tender is in for Lewes and we are working with Rother too.

2.11  Sara Taylor, EBC and LDC. Working on construction initiatives in Eastbourne and Lewes. Green programmes with secondary schools. Big Futures Show on Tuesday 23rd April with a big construction section. Primary schools programme too.

2.12  Ana Christie, Sussex Chamber of Commerce.

  • Working on LSIP with local colleges across Sussex.
  • Visited this site with a Korean student group.
  • Business skills gaps identified.
  • BCC running global trade, sustainability, high street development, digital tech and AI schemes.
  • Export champion in place.
  • Working on Gatwick Airport consent order for northern runway.

2.13  Donna Harfield, ESCG. HMD level apprenticeships up to level 5. Always keen to engage with employers.

2.14  Get to know Apprenticeships presentation from Donna Harfield.

11,813 students in Lewes, Newhaven (marine), Hastings, Eastbourne and Green Hub. 1604 apprentices. Recognised by Ofsted as GOOD! ESCG Skills for Life. Building a successful team – Manchester United example - Ferguson Babes – bringing on young people = commitment and loyalty. Took 4 years to win his first trophy! Training academies now the norm.

Benefits for business:

  • Productivity
  • Morale
  • Skills and innovation
  • Succession
  • Economic staffing solution
  • Upskilling and talent retention
  • Investing in people


  • They last 1-4 years
  • Real jobs
  • Formal qualification
  • Minimal or no training cost to employer and none to the apprentice trainee
  • Competitive salary (minimum wage = £5.28 up to £6.24 in April)
  • Wide range of apprenticeships and levels available


  • Anyone - any age, school leavers, adults, career breaks and employed earners.
  • Training an existing manager on an apprenticeship over two and a half years - for 6 hours per week / 20% of their time in study. Plus, a monthly workshop online or in person. Work based assignments. Not a quick fix – needs dedication.

Wide variety of programmes:

  • Engineering, manufacturing, business, and administration, digital, legal, finance, accounting, health and care, catering and hospitality, education and childcare, construction, hair and beauty.
  • Real need for more digital employers to get engaged.
  • Involve ESCG apprentice team at Digifest? DF/DH.
  • Digital skills needed in every sector. The technology moves so fast a long apprenticeship can get out of date quite quickly.
  • The college is making it easy for businesses (hiding the wiring) but they need employer buy in. ALL.

On the job / off the job training:

  • Online, and in person, training provider, competitions, on the job assignments and off the job training for 6 hours a week. Could be day release or block release for a week at a time, with regular assessor reviews.
  • Work based learning; assessor visits every 10-12 weeks.


  • A business with a £3 million annual payroll will pay a levy. This is a pot of money that can only be spent on apprenticeships. If it is not spent in 2 years it is passed on to smaller firms. The levy company loses the money.
  • Smaller businesses get it without a cost. Talk to the college about the terms for different age groups.
  • Depending on age you may need to spend 5% of training cost, plus the salary.
  • Rules are changing so talk to the college / provider.
  • Transfer Levy, in East Sussex there is a forum called “Transform” that shares the unspent levy available to help SMEs take on an apprentice without cost.

“Construction apprenticeships made easy” detailed here. Note there is an £8,500 grant available. ESCG will work with employers to develop the programmes they need.

2.15  Donna Fielder, Digifest presentation.

3. AOB (any other business)

3.1  The next meeting will take place on 24th April 2024, 9.30am to 11am, Chairman’s Function Room, County Hall, Westfield House, St Anne’s Crescent, Lewes BN17 1UE.

Summary of actions


Attendees and apologies


  • AC, Ana Christie, Sussex Chamber of Commerce
  • BD, Brian Drinkwater, Kyle Partnership
  • CE, Christina Ewbank, Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce
  • CS, Clive Soper, Hailsham Chamber of Commerce
  • DH, Donna Harfield, East Sussex College Group
  • DT, Donna Fielder, Chalk Eastbourne
  • IN, Ian Nobel, Uckfield Chamber of Commerce
  • LD, Lorraine Davis, University of Brighton
  • LS, Luke Shevels, Fieldskill Supplies
  • MO, Mitchell Offord, Straightforward Business Improvement
  • NP, Nick Parrish, Wightman and Parrish
  • PH, Paul Hetherington, Chair of Business East Sussex
  • ST, Sara Taylor, unknown
  • VO, Vicky Orbell, East Sussex College Group


  • AT, Alison Turner, FSB
  • GM, Graham Marley, Let’s Do Business
  • KB, Kerry Barrett, Lewes and Eastbourne Councils
  • KTh, Katy Thomas, East Sussex County Council
  • KTu, Kane Tudor, East Sussex County Council