Skills East Sussex board meeting minutes: 13 May 2021

Meeting details

Date: Thursday 13 May 2021

Time: 2pm to 4pm

Location: Microsoft Teams

See the list of attendees and apologies for this meeting


Actions from this meeting to be taken forward

Number Action details Responsible
Action 1 The minutes from the Net Zero Working Group meeting to be circulated to members of the board. SHow
Action 2 LA to share further information from SHAW Trust regarding local provision through COVID-19 Skills Recovery Fund when available. LA
Action 3 Secretariat to schedule a working group meeting in June/July for members to input further and decide the future SES priorities Secretariat

Actions from previous meeting 12 January 2021

Number Action details Responsible
Action 1
All partners to update actions on ERP and send to Sarah How by 12 February. All to submit new actions for ERP to Sarah How on ongoing basis - All
Action 2
Louise Aitken to share draft strategy with group and all to
comment via any of the SAP representatives
Action 3
Secretariat to organise the creation of the Net Zero Task
group and arrange its first meeting. JB, SM and LA expressed interest in being part of the group.
Action 4
BC to contact Cllr Simmons regarding Wealden District
Council Youth Hubs.
Action 5
BC to enquire about what data can be shared about local
Kickstart placements.
Action 6
LA to confirm permission to share and circulate list of prime contractors to share with members. LA
Action 7
CM/BC to support the collation of a data update with youth unemployment data, overview of the uptake of Plan for Jobs schemes and FE and HE course uptake to be shared in the interim between the next SES meeting. CM, BC
Action 8
Carried forward - CG (CXK) to send details of upcoming
SWAPs to SR to list on the Careers East Sussex Website.

DG welcomed attendees to the meeting.

1. SES Operations

1.1 An amendment was submitted to the previous minutes - 2.5.2 – ‘students’ revised to ‘apprentices’.

1.2 The minutes from the last meeting were approved.

1.3.1 SHow reported that the Net Zero working group had its first meeting on the 29 April and was led by an excellent presentation by Joseph Lewis, Institute of Environmental Science. The Institute of Environmental Science has confirmed it will be turning the presentation into a filmed webinar, which will be shared with sector task groups.

1.3.2 During the meeting presentations were given by Andy Arnold from East Sussex County Council, business collective Retrofit Works, Plumpton College and the East Sussex College Group.

1.3.3 The group felt strongly that Net Zero needs to be a central priority for SES over the coming years and identified key actions need to be undertaken:

  • Conducting an audit of jobs that may become redundant because of the transition to net zero economy.
  • Mapping current net zero work opportunities and analysis of skills gaps.
  • Mapping potential business opportunities that could drive changes in demand for skills.
  • Identification of current and potential training curriculum from L2-L5
  • Exploration of wider net zero education (climate awareness training) for those in leadership roles in any sector. This would also look to be rolled out to employees (in any sector) to embed
    climate centred approaches to the delivery of their organisation or roles as it was highlighted that a large proportion of staff needed for transition are already in the workforce.

1.3.4 The structure and regularity of future meetings is being considered.

1.4 DG noted that all members would be welcome to volunteer to attend future meetings of the working group.

1.5 AC noted that the British Chamber of Commerce and associated business organisations are involved in the launch of a Zero Carbon Business Portal which businesses can access and assess their carbon emissions using the Carbon Calculator. Data collected through the portal will be used towards COP 26.

Action 1

The minutes from the Net Zero Working Group meeting to be circulated to members of the board.

2. South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) update

 2.1 LA gave an overview of key activity across SELEP.

2.2 The employer-led Skills Advisory Panel (SAP) reflects the skills within the local growth sectors and geography. All SAPs nationally have produced their SAP Skills Report. The SELEP SAP Skills Report was taken to the main LEP board and has been approved and published. The report provides an overview of the current skills and economic landscape, case studies, commitments, action plan and data. This feeds into the National Skills and Productivity Board and central government.

2.3 DfE will utilise these reports as ‘go to’ documents for skills related information, data and priorities. An update will be due in November. SELEP are awaiting details of what this will involve. An executive summary is being produced along with a full data report with local level insight.

2.4 Priorities captured in the Report include:

  • increase apprenticeships and industry relevant qualifications for all ages, particularly in priority sectors and at higher and degree level
  • simplify the landscape for employers, stakeholders and individuals
  • build a diverse and inclusive economy and reduce polarisation
  • raise awareness of jobs and growth across SELEP and the area’s size, scale, national and international significance
  • foster and support the spirit of pride, entrepreneurship innovation and enthusiasm across SELEP to bring about change

2.5 Challenges noted in the 2018 to 2022 report include the significant number of residents on out of work benefits, lower than national average skill levels of residents at Levels 2 to 4 and shortage of tutors. Work is underway to address all priorities.

2.6 Capital Funding progress includes £69 million plus of capital investment in facilities to ensure responsive to industry need £80 million European Social Funding supporting people into and in work + new £2 million Pathways to employment for young people ESF Call.

2.7 The new call for tenders is focused on preparing young people for careers in certain sectors with wrap around support. Bids must be match funded and funding is available until the end of 2023. This tender can include local bids which do not have to be LEP wide.

2.8 The South East Skills website is now live and constantly being developed with resources, labour market information, courses, partner resources and updates.

2.9 On the 26 May, 10am to 12 noon, there will be a webinar, panel and Q&A about major projects across SELEP.

2.10 The SAP Action plan includes:

  • delivering against £4.4 million Covid-19 Recovery Fund supporting individuals and businesses
  • articulate growth areas outlined in Skills strategy and evidence base – new website launched; webinars planned – for example, the future of work
  • engagement with the Restart programme
  • raising the profile and understanding of apprenticeships – videos, resources, successful panel  and Q&A
  • a range of events and activities taking place through the Digital Skills Partnership
  • encouraging more volunteering at STEM ambassadors and enterprise advisers
  • Virtual SELEP Skills Festival planned for 19 and 21 October

2.11 The following organisations have been awarded SELEP £4.4m Skills and Business Support Covid-19 Recovery Funding:

  • Retraining for key sectors – Shaw Trust
  • Retraining for digital jobs – Tech Talent Academy
  • Digital kit and connectivity - We are Digital
  • Supporting pre-starts and start-ups - WSX
  • Digitising business, supporting retail and e-commerce - WSX
  • Supporting the visitor economy – Visit Kent

A webinar will be arranged soon to hear from all partners and projects. SELEP Economy and Recovery Strategy sets out how SELEP will work with partners to support a path to recovery and renewal in the short to medium term.

2.12 More details of national funding including UK Shared Prosperity Fund, Levelling Up.

2.13 LEP Review will take place over the summer with a new model agreed by April 2022.

2.14 ESFA are considering undertaking a limited procurement exercise to plug anticipated gaps in provision until an end date of March 2023. Proposed for SELEP area is support for young people who are NEET or at risk of NEET and Community Grants.

2.15 Cllr Standley asked about the points of similarity between COVID recovery strategies from various authorities and agencies and questioned how SELEP and local authorities are ensuring strategies are complementary.

2.16 LA noted that the SELEP strategy drew from both County Council and other local authority strategies to avoid duplication.

2.17 DSt queried how the Shaw Trust was planning to deliver specific sector training under the SELEP Skills recovery funding and asked how they would be able to be sure of not replicating local college offers.

2.18 LA commented that SELEP are expecting an initial contract meeting with the Shaw Trust in the coming weeks and offered to share information with DSt and SES partners.

Action 2

LA to share further information from the Shaw Trust regarding local provision through COVID-19 Skills Recovery Fund when available.

2.19 PS highlighted that the bureaucracy, complexity, and match funding requirements of much of the new ESF funding is causing barriers for applicants and explained that many employers or organisations may simply miss out on vital funding due to the difficult processes. Requested continuing lobbying around the simplification of finance applications and procurement processes.

2.20 LA agreed and noted that SELEP has lobbied the ESFA re ESF and hope that the new procurement opportunity will be easier to access.

2.21 JH noted that the forthcoming Shared Prosperity Fund will be administered at local level and the local authority will look to ensure the bidding process is as simple as possible.

3. Department for Education (DfE) Skills White Paper

3.1 - DG gave a summary of the headlines from the Skills White Paper.

  • Lifelong Learning – Enabling adults to access 4 years’ worth of student loan funding across further and higher education providers throughout their lifetime, including modular learning – for technical as well as academic learning at HE levels.
  • Lifetime Skills guarantee –£95 million funding to make a selection of ‘high-value’ Level 3 courses in priority sectors free to adults who do not already have a Level 3. This will benefit East Sussex as the population is comparatively low-skilled.
  • Modular learning - Not available until 2023 but will present an opportunity to address the low skills levels of East Sussex workforce, particularly given SME makeup of county.
  • Local Skills Improvement Plans and College Business Centres – plans created by employers, colleges and training providers in trailblazer local areas in early 2021 to present evidence-based skills assessments.
  • Employer designed FE courses by 2030 – Employers encouraged to design all higher technical course content and align and develop all technical qualifications and standards at a national level through Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) by 2030. Employers will lead the development of progression routes into higher technical education at Levels 4 and 5.
  • Greater emphasis on technical education - Learning grants will be available for individuals to pursue higher-level technical skills learning with ongoing commitment to Technical-levels and
    Institutes of Technology.
  • Nationwide FE Teacher recruitment campaign for FE – investing in high-quality specialist teachers recruited from industry and professional development through new Workforce
    Industry Exchange Programme.
  • £65 million Strategic Development Fund to help colleges meet local skills needs through “College Business Centres” within FE colleges.
  • College Funding Model changes– proposal for outcome-based funding for FE, to improve progression and respond to employer demand. Similarly, a multi-year funding regime outlined to give more certainty to providers.
  • Levelling Up Fund and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – awaiting details about delivery and administration. Fund to help those furthest from labour market.
  • Changes and additions to Apprenticeship offer – Apprenticeships will be made more flexible with funding through levy transfer, pre-apprenticeship training, shorter and modular learning.

3.2 DSh noted that there is £1.5 billion available for FE estates. ESCG are expecting to hear about the outcome of bids for their Lewes and Eastbourne estates.

3.3 DB noted that headlines in the White Paper do not refer to sixth form provision and informed the Board that Bexhill College is currently investing in T Level provision.

3.4 DSh welcomed the focus on the Lifetime Skills Guarantee as the majority of individuals requiring upskilling are already in employment and Adult Education Budget has been static for a number of years. Noted the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill is expected in connection to this, as announced in the Queen’s Speech. Noted the importance of balancing the work generated by centralised control.

3.5 DG agreed that centralised control elements for initiatives require strong local leadership on skills and local employment plans with employer engagement. Highlighted that more intervention will be possible if the government trusted employer-led local initiatives.

3.6 DSt noted that employer led training is often successful but there are times when provision needs to be slightly more generalist in order to give leaners a rounded education, so compromises need to be found with employers seeking very specific provision.

4. Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIP) Trailblazer proposal

4.1 AC explained that the DfE is asking for employer representative bodies to take a lead on expressions of interest to create trailblazing Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) that link to FE led Strategic Development Fund (SDF) pilots.

4.2 Sussex Chamber of Commerce is working on an application in partnership with the local FE sector, engaging with councils, LEPs, town chambers and business associations. The bid will look to cover an area stretching from Gatwick to Brighton and across coastal stretches, focusing on population centres and concentration of businesses. The chambers are keen that the bid supports the SAP and SES priorities and approaches so will focus on priority sectors (engineering, manufacturing, construction, healthcare) and will showcase transformation and innovation.

4.3 The deadline for the expression of interest bid is 25 May. Outcome known in June or July. Funding is to be spent by March 2022.

4.4 DSh noted that ESCG are working on both the LSIP and the SDF bids. The SDF bid is focusing on agritech and decarbonisation.

4.5 The DfE will select between six and eight ‘trailblazer’ LSIP bids but the process will be very competitive. The SDF pilot programmes can access some of a £65m pot, but if unsuccessful each area will receive £50,000.

4.6 Cllr Simmons expressed concern that rural areas were not being included in the proposal and emphasised that rural provision is not solely about rural or agricultural industries but that opportunities needed to be provided for young people and who are isolated in rural locations.

4.7 AC replied that the LSIP needs to be focused and cannot address the whole geography of East Sussex, but that agritech and viticulture were being mentioned in the LSIP and the SDF.

4.8 DSh added that a question within the LSIP bid related to trade-offs that will need to be made within the LSIP geography and it was felt that focusing on the coastal strip and Gatwick area would be a better proposal.

4.9 DSt suggested that the content should be a priority rather than a focus on the geography and asked whether the 3 themes identified in the Skills Accelerator documents (skills infrastructure, net zero and global Britain) were being addressed in the bids.

4.10 DSh noted that modular learning and lifetime skills guarantee will be emphasised in both bids.

4.11 DG noted that stakeholder input would be important in shaping the bids, as well as realistic structural emphasis of the way activity can be delivered. Noted that transitional training between sectors could be emphasised in the bid.

5. SES Review 2017 to 2020

5.1 HA reflected upon the progress made by Skills East Sussex. She commended the versatility of partners, the commitment to addressing skills needs in East Sussex, and the incredible work that partners had undertaken to change practice and address new needs in the light of the pandemic. Since 2017, approximately £20 million of funding to support SES priorities has supported local activity from sources such as the CEC, ESF, Public Health, DWP and SELEP COVID recovery funding.

5.2 Successes of the past 3 years include:

  • Careers Hub co-ordination of the EAN, Industry Champion Network and Cornerstone employers and provision of quality and relevant careers education via the Gatsby benchmarks. The East Sussex Careers Hub is recognised as one of the best achieving Hub in the country. The 2019-2020 Primary Careers Hub pilot was very successful in engaging with all 22 primary schools in the county. It was nationally recognised, and a legacy of resources are still in use.
  • From 2019, the All Age Careers Campaign Group was established, initially to fill vacancies within priority sectors, but post pandemic is working to help adults move out of unemployment and direct them to recruiting sectors.
  • Creation of Careers East Sussex website has expanded from use as an application portal to FE but now features information on local careers opportunities, training and information for young people and adults.
  • The SEND Community of Practice was created in 2020 to bring together stakeholders to improve careers education, transition, and progression of young people with SEND. Newsletters and resources created to support the outcome. The iCan bespoke Careers Event for young people with SEND was held in January 2020 and will run again in June 2021.
  • Shaping new curriculum through the Sector Task Groups and looking to increase the uptake of apprenticeships and higher-level skills training and education with some noted successes (the creation of SWAPs, Apprenticeships, and degree Apprenticeships).
  • Swift adaptation of all partners to demands of pandemic learning delivery – via virtual and blended learning and the adoption of new technologies.
  • The collective development of Mission 2 Building Skills: Creating Jobs of the TES Economy Recovery Plan which included a raft of commitments from partners including the generous AEB commitments from colleges, development of local DWP youth hubs, Sussex Chamber of Commerce volunteering as Gateway organisation for Kickstart Scheme, digital inclusion initiatives, development of the ESTAR programme working with those in supported accommodation and emergency housing, pre-employment programmes run by independent training providers and our VCSE organisations, CXK adapting their careers advice to online support with a new focus on retraining, DWP increasing its number of job coaches and introducing new initiatives such as JETS.

5.3 DG acknowledged that the Skills East Sussex network of employers, providers, groups and local authority partners have meant that this is an active partnership, quick to adapt and spot opportunities.

5.4 GP agreed with DG regarding the progress made from first stages of Skills East Sussex when he was chair over 6 years ago and thanked Holly Aquilina, Caroline Bragg and Caroline McKiddie for their work and achievement and for the work of their team.

5.5 Cllr Simmons recognised the great progress that had been made since the original desperation of the local skills landscape in 2013, and stated that the Board and its work will only become increasingly important to the future economy of East Sussex.

5.6 Cllr Standley acknowledged the achievement of the Board and the significant challenges which still lie ahead.

6. Setting new priorities

6.1 HA painted a picture of the current skills challenges that we need to address:

  • ongoing economic uncertainty nationally
  • 11% youth unemployment rate following pandemic
  • our workforce remains low skilled - we need to improve our skills base to attract inward investment (alongside infrastructural improvements)
  • our young people need support into learning and work and we need to raise their aspirations and attainment
  • apprenticeship numbers have dipped
  • we have current and immanent skills shortages in key sectors including Visitor Economy, Hospitality, Health and Social Care and Creative and Digital. This is linked to a labour exodus caused by Brexit
  • it is hard to recruit teachers to technical FE roles
  • need for more transferable and general skills to match the ‘new world of work’ following the pandemic. These include self-motivation, independent working, online marketing, technical skills and so forth

6.2 HA observed that SES priorities for 2017 to 2020 now seem rather broadbrush, and in many ways have simply become the ‘whats and hows’ of how SES operates, and are business as usual, which is a really positive sign of the partnership working effectively.

6.3 She suggested that looking at the current skills picture and considering the big issues facing the country and county, future priorities could be more specific and could consider priorities that
focus on:

  • upskilling our workforce – only half of ES adult population skilled at Level 3 and above - how do we make sure that CPD is on the agenda of all of our employers?
  • net zero, including technical skills, knowledge, climate literacy – could this provide an opportunity for the county?
  • FE and HE Teaching  and teachers – should we be trying to recruit excellent teachers at FE and HE in order to deliver excellent and aspiration raising education?
  • supporting the unemployed and unqualified – how do we help our most marginalised ‘leapfrog’ from no skills to competent skills?

6.4 She noted that whatever we do, we need to bear in mind the impact of the ‘levelling up’ agenda, the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill and LSIPs/SDF but that whether or not the Chambers bid is successful, we need to have a strong sense of direction for SES.

6.5 HA invited members to comment.

6.6 Cllr Simmons agreed that the priorities do need to incorporate the areas highlighted in the presentation and added that we should also spell out who it is that we want to focus on (helping the young who are currently unemployed or NEET) and the mechanisms for achieving this (for example, apprenticeships).

6.7 CM added that unemployment data provided by DWP is not a true reflection of the actual number of NEET in East Sussex. There are in excess of 400 16 and 17 year olds who do not appear on DWP stats and likely more 18 year olds as well.

6.8 VF noted the removal of L2 business admin framework has also had an impact on reducing the number of young people starting apprenticeships.

6.9 DG observed that apprenticeship funding through levy transfer and ability to undertake modular learning will improve the flexibility of apprenticeships.

6.10 ME agreed that technical skills are important for students but commercial leadership and sales skills also need to be improved as this sector has changed through the pandemic and blended working skills are a new priority. He noted that there is a lot of goodwill of professionals looking to engage in teaching in FE settings.

6.11 - GP noted that employers engaged through Skills East Sussex have routinely outlined a desire for transitional and general skills such as good attitudes to work and good timekeeping. At a recent meeting of the Hastings Opportunity Area Board, 2 head teachers discussed the disillusionment of their students with young people who have been brought further from the labour market and aspiration by the pandemic. He felt that a focus on reinvigorating young people with PR style information about careers and opportunities would be important.

6.12 DSh stated that the current situation following the pandemic sees more adults in work than young people, meaning that upskilling and reskilling and promoting longer lives in work should be a focus of the board. As the largest holder of AEB in the county, ESCG will look to put on more provision to meet these needs and he suggested that SES priorities could be tied to the time scale of the Spending Review in November and the current parliament so that activity can be more closely linked to funding.

6.13 DSt highlighted key focuses to capture in priorities: training  new entrants, upskilling the existing workforce and working with SMEs and micro businesses to address knowledge transfer.

6.14 Cllr Standley emphasised that local employers will need to recover their confidence post-COVID. It should continue to be a priority to start early when working on skills in schools, particularly as the pandemic may have seen some basic skills lost for school-age children. Agreed that lobbying MPs to simplify government processes within the skills and employability landscape will be important as new schemes simply aren’t solving employment issues.

6.15 HA suggested that SES priorities need to be agreed by SES at the October meeting and suggested a working group convenes in the interim to further discuss and develop the priorities. An invitation will be circulated to all who would like to participate.

Action 3

Secretariat to schedule a working group meeting in June/July for members to input further and decide the future SES priorities.

7. AOB (any other business)

7.1 - HA drew partners attention to the Virtual Careers Event Week 24 to 27 May 2021 and asked that Board members promote these events within their networks and via social media channels.

Careers East Sussex, in collaboration with always possible, Culture Shift and Sussex STEM, is hosting an innovative online careers week this spring, with 8 events to inspire and mobilise the future workforce. Focusing on careers in STEM, creative and digital, construction and health and social care, there will be a one-hour event in each sector aimed at 14 to 24-year-olds, and another for adults who have been made unemployed or are looking to change career. Book your free place at

7.2 HA noted that Sam Rhodes is leaving the Employability and Skills team to undertake the role of Digital Inclusion Manager within the Library Service and thanked him for all that he has done to support the Board and task groups.

7.3 - DG thanked SR for all his help and invited him to offer a granular view of digital inclusion in East Sussex at a future meeting.

8. Next meeting

Date: Tuesday 5 October 2021

Time: 2pm to 4pm

Location: Microsoft Teams

Attendees and apologies


  • DG, Diana Garnham, Chair
  • Cllr Forward, Councillor Forward, Hastings Borough Council
  • Cllr Simmons, Councillor Simmons, East Sussex County Council
  • Cllr Standley, Councillor Standley, East Sussex County Council
  • Cllr Tutt, Councillor Tutt, Eastbourne District Council
  • AC, Ana Christie, Sussex Chamber of Commerce
  • CM, Caroline McKiddie, East Sussex County Council
  • DB, Dave Brown Bexhill College
  • DSh, Dan Shelley, ESCG/Construction Task Group Co-Chair
  • DSt, David Stokes, Plumpton College
  • GP, Graham Peters, Chair of Team East Sussex
  • IN, Ian Noble Uckfield Chamber of Commerce
  • JB, Julie Barker, Consultant/Visitor Economy Task Group Chair
  • JD, Jude Day, SCDA
  • JH, James Harris, East Sussex County Council
  • KB, Karra Brenchley, DWP
  • LA, Louise Aitken, SELEP
  • ME, Martin Ellis, RSE Group
  • MP, Melanie Powell, Rother District Council
  • PSm, Pauline Smith, CXK
  • RDa, Richard Dawson, East Sussex County Council
  • RDr, Rhona Drever, East Sussex County Council
  • SS, Sally Staples ESCC
  • VF Viki Faulkner, University of Brighton
  • VP, Vanessa Potter, SCTP


  • HA, Holly Aquilina
  • SR, Sam Rhodes
  • SH, Sarah How


  • Sara Taylor
  • Julian Perrott
  • Julie Neill
  • Paul Mitchell
  • Colleen Hart
  • Bruce Campbell
  • Phil Matthews
  • Penny Shimm