Skills East Sussex board meeting minutes: 31 January 2023

Meeting details

Date: Tuesday 31 January 2023

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 Link Rother District Council construction stakeholder group into the teacher encounters CPD group SBu
Action 2 DWP to discuss job vacancy landscape in East Sussex with with CllrSt (“why are unemployed levels remaining high when there are so many vacancies?”) AG/DWP
Action 3 Share the neurodiversity research from Moving on Up at a future meeting of Skills East Sussex FC
Action 4 Share summary information about current CXK provision with SES PSm
Action 5 Organise meeting to discuss UKSPF county led People & Skills initiative CBe, MP, JH, HA
Action 6 Identify how presented programmes can interlink and identify which cohorts each programme supports HA  Adult Learning Network
Action 7 Further consideration of support to over 50s. Set up small working group for further discussion or explore further at Adult Learning Network HA/DWP
Action 8 Further consideration of research to identify income and consequently skills levels needed in East Sussex. Set up small working group to consider further HA
Action 9 Link new digital film studio in Eastbourne to SBu for inclusion in Creative, Cultural Digital and Media Task Group CE

1. Welcome

1.1 DG welcomed all attendees and guests and asked for introductions. Noted that some are attending to present, and others are new members on behalf of their organisation.

2. SES operations

2.1 No comments on the minutes of the last meeting, these were agreed.

 2.2 No comments or questions made on the Update Paper.

2.3 SBu gave an update on the activities of the sector Task Groups and the Working Groups. These aligned to the Skills East Sussex (SES) six priorities (see the addendum to these minutes).

2.4 MP requested that Rother District Council get involved in the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) work, particularly in relation to Construction.

ACTION 1: Link Rother District Council construction stakeholder group into the teacher encounters CPD group – SBu

2.5 DG and others thanked SBu for a very good summary.

3. Current landscape:

3.1 HA introduced this item continuing the conversations started at the last Board meeting. Given the increasing pressures on personal and business budgets of rising costs (especially utilities and fuel), there is a need to look at measures to support the vulnerable. She explained that the focus of the current meeting was consequently on supporting the unemployed, underemployed, low skilled and hard to reach. This links in with work of the East Sussex Financial Inclusion Group (multi agency).

 3.2 A key issue is that wages in East Sussex are lower than the national average (making them significantly lower than prosperous areas nearby) but costs are higher than average, particularly housing.

 3.3 PSh continued that ‘heat or eat’ is a stark reality for many people living in the county. Low incomes put people in a position where every choice is between ‘bad and bad’. Demand for specialist advice is very high. People are desperate and unable to manage their income in a rapidly changing environment. Pre-pay meters charge higher costs per unit, buying in bulk is not affordable.

 3.4 There are 11 specialist money advice services in the county. Only two (BHT and Citizens’ Advice) are regulated to deliver at specialist issue.

3.5 Digital exclusion is still an issue. People may have technical capability but are using pre-pay mobiles, not a strong broadband connection to try to achieve tasks. Long, complex forms need to be printed but many people do not have printers or paper, and this can add up when using third parties.

 3.6 GE explained that the DWP has joined forces with a number of organisations to signpost customers to money advice and support. DG welcomed this, PSH confirmed these are being used by local people.

 3.7 GE presented the most recent claimant count figures by all aged 16+, 18-24s and over 50s. The claimant count is those people on JSA (Job Seekers Allowance) and UC (Universal Credit) intensive work regime. These are the ones seen regularly. This does not include those not required to look for work.

 3.8 The count is down over the last year, but there has been a slowdown in the last six months. The picture is mixed. The percentage increase over the pandemic was lower in East Sussex than Kent and Brighton & Hove due to being relatively high to begin with. There have been positives in local reductions in young people claiming, but the end of KickStart is being seen. The Administration Earnings Threshold (AET) has increased. This will bring those working but on UC into the claimant count and intensive regime.

 3.9 CllrSt queried the lower number of young people going into apprenticeships and whether this was due to reluctance. DG clarified that the data HA presented showed more apprenticeship funds are spent on upskilling older/experienced workers than on new apprentice recruits. CB added that there are fewer level 2 schemes which also makes it harder for young people to enter the workplace as apprentices, and DK noted that there is an employer perception that it is easier to recruit or train an older person who is considered more work-ready.

 ACTION 2: CllrSt to discuss job vacancy landscape in East Sussex with DWP – AG

3.10 GE said there is a job mismatch as there are plenty of vacancies. Some of this will be about not having the right skills, the right location, the motivation to work. PSh said that low wage levels are a barrier to taking up employment that involves a lot of travel, such as rural care homes. HA highlighted we need to know what people need to earn in East Sussex to keep afloat as costs are high and a minimum wage in East Sussex is unlikely to enable people to meet their financial obligations. JD noted that people are reluctant to take on full responsibility for their housing costs if jobs are low-paid or contracts are not permanent.

 3.11 East Sussex College Group (ESCG) have free digital skills offer currently (and a new coding offer funded through SDF -Strategic Development Fund) which may support those struggling to access learning and work. ESCG Essential Skills Offer

4. Addressing current needs: Current programmes (synopsis and lessons learnt) and forthcoming programmes

4.1 JD opened this section with lessons learnt from the CRF (Community Renewal Fund) (funded ‘Minding the Gaps’ programme. She highlighted that the programme had shown that not all qualifications are equal and it is important to check what employers want and what clients want to get out of employability programmes. ‘Tickets to work’ are often not directly/freely funded and may have to be tied to other programmes. The project had shown that people will retrain if they are interested in specific roles. She noted that potential employees ‘are hindered by NHS waiting lists’ in moving into being deemed fit to work.

 4.2 MS gave an overview of Support into Work. This programme supports Ukrainian guests and refugees. There are 1600 Ukrainian guests in the local area and up to 600 refugees. Many have a variety of specialist qualifications which are not recognised in the UK. This is a skilled set of people who would be valuable to retain in the local economy. ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) is a key need. The situation on equivalents is constantly changing. JH asked about Ukrainians views on plans themselves – MS replied that up to 75% see themselves staying for the foreseeable future.

 4.3 FC went on to talk about Moving on Up (MoU). She said key here is the right support and opportunity to start a job. Work with employers has led to making job advertisements and descriptions less daunting. Many employers just want someone who is keen and willing to learn. Participants include domestic abuse survivors, care leavers and others who have major barriers to overcome. FC noted that jobs have been taken across the county, but jobs in rural East Sussex are harder to fill due to travel needs/costs.

 4.4 IW praised the MoU programme as ‘life-saving’. CE asked about linking to Little Gate Farm. MOU are aware of Little Gate but no referrals have been made yet. MOU will be conducting partnership research on neurodiversity in the cohort to see if issues for this group could have been identified earlier, preventing homelessness, and how employability support and learning could be delivered differently to support them.

ACTION 3: Share the neurodiversity research from Moving on Up at a future meeting of Skills East Sussex – FC

 4.5 SG gave an overview of Transform, a programme that exists to support SMEs employ apprentices. They raise awareness of the levy transfer which can save employers up to £5,000. DO commented that Transform is ‘the best thing to happen in recent times’. He advised that the average age for the university’s higher apprenticeships is 33. SG advised that as the programme is employer-facing, not student-facing they do not collect data on demographics. Apprenticeships from level 2 to 7 are covered. More data, such as sector breakdowns is due and can be shared.

 4.6 IW spoke on the REED Restart programme which receives referrals from DWP for those who have become more than nine months employed. ‘Little things make a big difference’ finding a ‘triangulated approach’ is most effective. Work on ‘soft’ skills including confidence-building, specific sector introductions and work with employers on recognising what potential employees who have been long-term unemployed have to offer. Many have gone into sustainable employment.

 4.7 AG highlighted the key priority areas for DWP. There is a focus on over 50s with ‘Your Experience Counts’. The labour market is difficult for East Sussex applicants with 0.2 jobs per claimant compared to 3-4 roles per claimant in Surrey and West Sussex. An innovation will be a small neurodiverse jobs fair. There has been sustained employer engagement with 1,000s of customer and 100s of employers attending DWP events.

 4.8 RJ advised that Multiply in East Sussex is underway following the tender for delivery process. The Multiply pages on Careers East Sussex are under development with more course information to follow. There is funding available for employers to release staff to attend the training. Current providers: Reed In Partnership, The People Matter Trust, SCDA, Twin Training, AQT, Heathercroft, Plumpton College, East Sussex College Group, Audio Active, GRH Training, Albion in the Community, East Sussex County Council Libraries.

4.9 HA gave a combined update on behalf of the Districts and Boroughs on the UK’s Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) and People and Skills interventions. The original guidance stated that Authorities should focus their People and Skills interventions on 2024-25 provision. Wealden and Rother have ring-fenced funds for 2023-24 and 2024-25 for a pan-county employment support project for the financially inactive. Lewes and Eastbourne expect to add funds to this in 2024-25. Hastings currently has targeted all UKSPF for both years on the Broomgrove Estate so is unable to be part of a pan-Sussex UKSPF project.

 4.10 CBe emphasied the need for cross-county working so as not to duplicate and make the most effective use of funds.

 4.11 PSm advised that the National Careers Service, CXK are delivering a range of national and local government initiatives.

 ACTION 4: Share summary information about current CXK provision with SES – PSm

 ACTION 5: Organise meeting to finalise UKSPF county led P&S initiative – CBe, MP, JH, HA

5. Addressing gaps in delivery & knowledge

5.1 DG introduced the breakout discussions with a focus on ‘what don’t we know but need to know’ in order to better support marginalised cohorts, and ‘what do we need to know to better target current programmes of support?’

6. Feedback from breakout sessions and discussion

6.1 SBu gave feedback. There are lots of great offers out there – knowing the differences and eligibility criteria and what is best for individuals needs to be explored. 50+ is too broad a term. There will be those who are highly skilled digitally and those who know very little across all age bands. Educational levels and financial needs vary. 60+ and 65+ are not the same as 50s. There is not enough high-quality part-time work to support work/life balance. Many people in the over 50 age group volunteered during the pandemic – how could we convert these people into paid workers?

 6.2 HA fed back from group two that employers need to be better able to support older people in the workplace, including returners to the workplace. They need to be able to offer flexibility and could also support those over 50 with financial planning for their older age especially given the ageing demographics in the county.

 6.3 Transport is a significant issue in the county. Without access to independent transport accessing work can be difficult. DK said that the dependency on inadequate public transport can lead those who cannot afford cars to be perceived as unreliable.

ACTION 6: Identify how presented programmes can interlink and identify which cohorts each programme supports - Via Adult Learning Network meeting/workshop in February 2023

ACTION 7: Further consideration of support to over 50s. Set up small working group for further discussion or explore further at Adult Learning Network – HA

ACTION 8: Further consideration of research to identify income and related skills levels needed in East Sussex. Set up small working group to consider further – HA

7. AOB (any other business), Forward Plan

7.1 CE asked if members are aware of a new digital film studio in Eastbourne. It would be good to link to the task group covering digital media and the Talent Accelerator programme.

ACTION 9: Link new digital film studio in Eastbourne to SBu for inclusion in Creative, Cultural Digital and Media Task Group - CE, Eastbourne Chamber

7.2 SBu gave a brief overview of the Forward Plan for 2023 SES Board meetings. HA advised that Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIP) updates will be a standing item, unfortunately CW had to send late apologies for today’s meeting.

7.3 For the 19 October meeting and the Town Plan item, DG suggested ‘skills within place-based regeneration’. The Secretariat will update this.

8. Next meeting

 Next meeting is 19th April due at County Hall, Lewes. Main meeting 2-4pm, attendees are asked to arrive at 1.30pm for refreshments and to ensure a prompt start.

Attendees and apologies


  • DG, Diana Garnham, Chair
  • AG, Alex Green Service Leader East Sussex, DWP

  • AP. Andrew Pritchard, Assistant Principal, Bexhill College

  • CB, Caroline Bragg, Employability and Skills Strategy Manager, ESCC

  • CE, Christina Ewbank, Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce

  • CMc, Caroline McKiddie Manager for Skills, Education, Training & Employment, ESCC

  • CllrSi, Cllr Rupert Simmons, Lead Member for Economy, ESCC

  • CllrSt, Cllr Bob Standley, Lead Member for Education & Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability, ESCC

  • DH, Donna Harfield [part], Assistant Principal, East Sussex College Group

  • DK, Dan Karlsson, Head of Business Services, Plumpton College

  • DO, David Oloke, Head of Technical Education and Apprenticeships, University of Brighton

  • GE, Gary Edwards, Third Party Provision Manager Surrey & Sussex, DWP

  • IC, Ian Noble Secretary, Uckfield Chamber of Commerce

  • JD, Jude Day Employability Programme Manager, Sussex Community Development Association

  • JH, James Harris, Assistant Director- Economy, ESCC

  • JHu, Janet Hughes, Coastal West Sussex DWP on behalf of SBe

  • LJ, Lucy Jenks, Post-16 Liaison Manager, Sussex Learning Network on behalf of SW

  • MP, Melanie Powell, Regeneration, Rother District Council

  • PD, Pranesh Datta, Regeneration, Hastings Borough Council

  • PSh, Penny Shimmin, Chief Executive, Sussex Community Development Association

  • PSm, Pauline Smith, CXK (National Careers Service)

  • RC, Rebecca Conroy [part], Principal, East Sussex College Group

  • SS, Sally Staples, Cultural Strategy Manager, ESCC and Co-Chair Creative & Digital Media Task Group

  • TSA, Teresa Salami-Oru [part], Consultant in Public Health, Adult Social Care & Health, ESCC

  • VP, Vanessa Potter. Executive Director, Sussex Council of Training Providers


  • FC, Florence Cape [part]ESTAR (Moving on Up) Employment Co-ordinator, ESCC
  • MS, Michael Selmes, [part] ESTAR (Support into Work) Employment Co-ordinator, ESCC
  • RJ, Rebecca Jones [part] Adult Learning Project Manager, ESCC
  • SG, Suzanne Green [part] European Social Fund Project Manager, ESCC


  • HA, Holly Aquilina,

    Employability and Skills Strategy Manager, ESCC

  • DM, Donnalyn Morris, ESCC, Employability and Skills Project Officer

  • SBu, Stephen Burkes, Employability and Skills Project Manager, ESCC


  • CH, Colleen Hart, System Head of Workforce & Organisational Development East Sussex, NHS Sussex
  • CllrT, Cllr David Tutt, Eastbourne Borough & Lewes District Councils, ESCC
  • CW, Claire Witz, Skills Project Director, Sussex Chamber of Commerce
  • DB, Dave Brown, Principal, Bexhill College
  • GR, Gaynor Ripley, Partnership Manager, Coastal East (Hastings, Bexhill, Eastbourne), DWP
  • JB, Julie Barker, Independent Consultant - Chair, Visitor & Cultural Economy Task Group
  • JP, Julian Perrott, Director, BarkWeb Ltd and Co-Chair Creative, Cultural Digital & Media Task Group
  • KSt, Karen Stevens, Locality Manager London and South East (East Sussex, West Sussex, Brighton & Hove), Skills for Care – Chair, Health & Social Care Task Group
  • PH, Paul Hussey, Interim Assistant Director Planning, Performance & Engagement, Adult Social Care & Health, ESCC
  • SBe, Steve Benwell, Senior Partnership Manager Surrey and Sussex District
  • SW, Sarah Williams, Sussex Learning Network
  • WG, Wendy Gorham, Careers Hub Lead, East Sussex Careers Hub