Skills East Sussex minutes 19th April 2023

Skills East Sussex Board Meeting

Meeting details

Date: Tuesday 19 April 2023

Time: 2pm to 4pm

Location: Microsoft Teams

Attendees and apologies



Organisation, Role


Diana Garnham

Skills East Sussex Board CHAIR


Alex Green

Service Leader East Sussex, DWP


Andrew Pritchard

Bexhill College, Assistant Principal


Chris Bending

Wealden District Council, Director of Place


Christina Ewbank

Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, ACES Facilitator


Caroline McKiddie

Strategic Lead: Partnership and Skills, Education Division, ESCC


Claire Witz

Sussex Chamber of Commerce, Skills (LSIP) Project Director


Cllr David Tutt

Eastbourne Borough & Lewes District Councils, East Sussex County Council


Cllr Bob Standley

Lead Member for Education & Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability, ESCC


Craig Garton

CXK (National Careers Service), Director of Operations & Quality


Dan Karlsson [part]

Plumpton College, Head of Business Services,


Dr David Oloke

University of Brighton, Head of Technical Education and Apprenticeships


James Harris

Assistant Director- Economy, ESCC


Jeremy Kerswell [part]

Principal, Plumpton College


Rebecca Conroy

Principal, East Sussex College Group


Sally Staples

ESCC, Cultural Strategy Manager and Co-Chair Creative & Digital Media Task Group


Sarah Williams

Sussex Learning Network, Director


Vanessa Potter

Sussex Council of Training Providers (SCTP), Executive Director


Wendy Gorham

East Sussex Careers Hub, Careers Hub Lead



Caroline Bragg

ESCC, Employability and Skills Strategy Manager Economy and Education Divisions


Thomas Wolfenden

University of Sussex, Senior Knowledge Exchange Initiatives Manager, Innovation & Business Partnerships




Becky Shaw

ESCC and WSCC, Chief Executive


Colleen Hart

System Head of Workforce & Organisational Development East Sussex, NHS Sussex


Ian Noble

Secretary, Uckfield Chamber of Commerce


Julian Perrot

BarkWeb Ltd Director, Co-Chair Creative, Cultural, Digital and Media Task Group


Louise Aitken

SELEP, Skills Lead and Skills Growth Essex CC


Martin Elllis

Recruitment South East, Headhunter


Penny Shimmin

SCDA, Chief Executive


Pauline Smith

CXK (National Careers Service), Chief Executive


Dr Susan Baxter

University of Sussex, Director Innovation & Business Partnerships




Holly Aquilina

ESCC, Employability and Skills Strategy Manager - Economy and Education Divisions


Donnalyn Morris

ESCC, Employability and Skills Project Officer - Economy and Education Divisions


Stephen Burkes

ESCC, Employability and Skills Project Manager - Economy and Education Divisions

Actions from this meeting




1)    Share adult training provision mapping information with LSIP

SES Secretariat

5 May 2023

2)    Promote level 3 entitlement


On-going. Push Summer 2023

3)    Lobby DfE regarding AEB allocations to East Sussex colleges


31 July 2023

4)    More data on student numbers, travel times/home base to be brought to a future Board


October 2023 or January 2024

5)    Explore flexibility and guidance around study/upskilling for employment and receiving benefits


On-going. Initial report back to October 2023 Board

6)    Explore different models of training delivery – modular, blended and more mobile to help plug gaps in provision



7)    Follow up regarding ITPs at next ALN meeting


June 2023

8)    Amend and update the SES Forward Plan to discuss SLN provision mapping


January 2024

9)    Update on LSIP Submission to be added to Forward Plan


May 2023

10) Confirm attendance of 19 July Board at DLWP as soon as able

ALL Members

19 June 2023

1. Welcome, Introductions and Apologies

1.1 DG welcomed all to the meeting which would focus on the training and education provision for post 19s and post FE (Further Education).

1.2 The Board acknowledged the late CllrSi who passed away over Easter, holding a minute’s silence. CllrSt paid tribute to CllrSi’s contribution and passion in promoting skills and the links to the economy and employability.

1.3 Apologies noted.

2. SES Operations

2.1 Minutes of the last meeting approved. Actions were in progress, completed or on the agenda.

2.2 SBu gave a presentation, highlighting key Task Group updates in addition to the update paper. Particular highlights were around:

2.3 Priority One – Policy Funding Supports Learning and Skills: The Health and Social Care Task Group’s work with the ICB (Integrated Care Board)’s Head of HR is focusing on CPD (Continuing Professional Development) and transferable skills. This includes trialling innovative solutions and sometimes incentives to fit around staff time and employer needs.

2.4 Priority Two – Enabling Further Education/Higher Education recruitment: The Teachers’ Encounters event arranged for 5th July. Working with FE Sussex this event will bring together industry, educators and trainers to give Construction and Engineering tutors access to the latest technologies in their sectors.

2.5 Priority Three – Improving Digital Skills and Inclusion: This was a key area covered by the Institute for Employment Studies survey. Results of this will be announced at the Skills Summit in May and also brought to the Skills East Sussex Board in July.

2.6 Priority Four – Upskilling our workforce: A thread through all of our work. Of particular note is promoting Multiply to all key sectors. The development of an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) course aimed specifically at the healthcare sector was conceived by East Sussex College Group (ESCG) in response to demand through discussion with the Health and Social Care Task Group.

2.7 Priority Five – Supporting the unemployed and unqualified: In work progression has been a key theme, particularly in lower paying sectors. Raising awareness that the ’16-hour rule’ no longer applies. An event was held in February linking hospitality businesses to training providers.

2.8 DG noted that information in the update paper and latest LMI (Labour Market Information) newsletter showed that upskilling is in progress in East Sussex based on Census 2021 which shows an increase in L3 attainment in the county. However, skills levels remain generally below national average attainment.

3. Adult Learning Network, workshop feedback, gaps in provision and potential for AEB Innovation Fund

3.1 SBu focused on work coming out of the Adult Learning Network (ALN) group. The workshop meeting mapped education, training and employability provision for those aged 19+ across the county. Information was gathered from colleges, DWP, Restart, national careers service and independent providers. SBu acknowledged there are many ways the mapping could be plotted. In this instance a ‘sphere of influence’ of 4km has been used to map the provision. Transport routes could be added to the mix.

3.2 SBu showcased the map which highlighted ‘cold’ spots. HE provision is a key cold spot. East Sussex has no university in the county (colleges offer some HE provision) so those wishing to have a full university experience and gain a degree leave the county apart from a few who study in Brighton. The issue is then whether these graduates return and if they realise that there are a range of graduate opportunities available locally. This means that we also need to identify how to attract graduates into jobs in East Sussex.

3.3 Although general employability programmes are relatively widespread across the county, sector-focussed training to move people into work in key vacancy roles is another issue where there are cold spots in provision and are not very accessible. A SWAP (Sector Based Work Academy Programme) is often the best route. People may travel for some specialisms, such as agriculture/animal care/forestry and wine production focused programmes at Plumpton. However, it is less likely that people would travel across the county to undertake an entry level hospitality role at Hospitality Rocks SWAP in Eastbourne or Hastings for example. It also identified that rural Sussex is not well served by FE/HE or employability provision.

3.4 SBu emphasised that the Adult Learning Network meeting identified that the outcomes set by funders don’t include progression pathways or support in progression but instead tend to focus on specific closed outcomes. For example, the target for JCP (JobCentrePlus) and Restart is to get someone into a job. A job with training or progression is not the target.

3.5 His presentation highlighted areas of East Sussex have high levels of people with no qualifications (20.1% in Hastings compared to 12.4% in Brighton) and lower numbers qualified to level 4 (28.6% in Hastings with 44.5% in Brighton).

3.6 There is a correlation between level 4 and above attainment and salaries at £25-27k per annum. Salaries of circa £25k often are what people want in order to feel they are financially better off if no longer on benefits and benefits-related reductions.

3.7 JKe queried how this information could inform curriculum planning. He asked if this could inform the LSIP (Local Skills Improvement Plan) so they could be part of the solution.

ACTION 1: To share information with CWi at Sussex Chamber – HA

3.8 SMEs do not tend to have their own apprenticeship programmes. East Sussex is dominated by SMEs with a few (notably the NHS and East Sussex County Council) large public sector employers.

3.9 Lower population areas need funding uplifts so that lower enrolments make provision viable. Referrals cannot be made directly between providers. This increases drop-out rates. Momentum to learn or go further is not capitalised upon.

3.10 DG noted that there is a conversation to be had with DWP about learning journeys for individuals. It would also be useful for ALN members to be able to monitor what happens to their clients next.

3.11 CllrSt noted that residents in the north of the county may access Kent for training provision as easier transport links. It would be useful to know what number of East Sussex residents access learning in Kent.

3.12 At present the funding model is more market led than service or needs led. This does not support the geography and population of this county well.

3.13 The ALN will take on board guidance from today’s SES meeting. This will include:

• identify pathways between local provision
• filling the gaps in HE provision
• addressing rural gaps
• explore areas for joint working (such as use of the Adult Education Budget innovation 3% if applicable)

4. East Sussex College Group (ESCG)

4.1 RC gave an overview of the ESCG curriculum plan as it aligns with the six SES priorities.

4.2 Notable in Priority One is the reduction of sub-contracting of apprenticeship provision and the rise in apprenticeship numbers. Decarbonisation training and T Level provision has been introduced. Unfortunately, AEB has been reduced due to under delivery in 21-22, but increasing numbers of SWAPS will be delivered.

4.3 Challenges in staffing continue to be prevalent. This is particularly true for STEM subjects and for learning support assistants. Partnership working with employers is improving – particularly with STEM employers.

4.4 The Strategic Development Fund (SDF) has supported the delivery of digital skills. There are now ‘roll on/roll off’ courses and a variety of free digital courses with a new higher level digital course validated by the University of East Anglia.

4.5 This new partnership with the University of East Anglia is a really exciting development and means that ESCG will be able to work towards filling gaps in key HEI level learning in the county.

4.6 Work to upskill the workforce includes collaboration with the De La Warr Pavilion; partnership work with SGN (previously Scotia Gas Networks); work with the DWP (‘Your Experience Counts’, ‘Hospitality Rocks’), and with Multiply and the ESTAR team at ESCC.

4.7 The work with DWP supports the unemployed and unqualified as do partnerships with charity sector organisations.

4.8 There is growth of green programmes – to be delivered at Ore as well as Hampden Park and at the Maritime centre (was the UTC). Green skills will be embedded across the curriculum and there are specific green and technological units for apprenticeships.

4.9 DG asked about enrolment numbers for digital and green skills courses. RC advised that many of these have just started and that there is still little awareness of the green jobs, but this information can be provided as courses roll out. CB added that case studies and pan-Sussex CEIAG (Careers Education, Information Advice and Guidance) will help raise interest and HA added that the Skills Summit would have a strong green jobs focus.

4.10 HA asked if the college is seeing an uptake in the free level 3 entitlement for those on low wages or without a level 3. RC said there is a range of provision but it is restricted in terms of which courses can be undertaken. There is also little appetite to do a full level 3 from those eligible. Some basic skills support may also be needed to take up level 3 provision. HA offered to work with the college to help promote L3 entitlement courses to employers and unemployed groups.

ACTION 2: Promote level 3 entitlement availability in East Sussex – HA/Colleges

4.11 HA asked whether there was any merit in SES lobbying the DfE about the reduction to much needed AEB funding. JH agreed that SES would like to support this as did CllrSt.

ACTION 3: To lobby regarding AEB on behalf of the colleges – SES secretariat / Board

5. Plumpton College

5.1 JK opened his presentation by explaining that Plumpton is one of only 12 independent land-based colleges in the country. There was growth in 2022 with 100% increase in apprenticeships and over a third increase in 14-19s. Job roles are more technical than ever which goes against the perceptions of this being a low skilled sector. With the cost of living crisis and import challenges, alongside a need for a greener climate, the sector is more vital to the economy and country than before.

5.2 Plumpton attracts students from across Sussex, Brighton & Hove and Kent. The lack of transport choices to the campus mean that some potential students are deterred from taking up a place. Out-dated views may mean that some students are also put off by inaccurate advice about the sector.

5.3 AEB provision has been delivered at a maximum allocation and the college could expand this provision.

5.4 Plumpton has a specific approach to addressing teaching shortages. Less than 10% of their academic vacancies were filled by teacher trained staff in the last five years. Staff turnover is low. Plumpton recruits subject experts and puts them through teacher training. Some sectors do still remain a challenge.

5.5 Digital skills is embedded into the curriculum and the IT Strategy roadmap for 2019-2023 has been delivered. Blended delivery is used for the national apprenticeship programme. The Centre of Digital Excellence delivery is part of the wider SDF grant.

5.6 Upskilling the workforce is delivered through four key areas for Plumpton:
• One Garden Brighton’s horticulture
• Viticulture including graduate and post graduate offerings as well as the national apprenticeship programme
• Veterinary and animal science with the largest veterinary nurse training in South East England
• Agrifood and Environment with the Agrifood capital development completed Spring 2023.

5.7 A sustainable land management degree launches in September 2023 accredited by the University of Greenwich. The College is seeking to expand its higher level learning offer via accreditation via the University, and currently has higher level degrees in veterinary, wine, equine and animal management.

5.8 One Garden Brighton, partnership work with Estar in Hastings and Eastbourne supports the unemployed and unqualified. SWAPs delivered in partnership with the DWP in butchery, horticulture, viticulture and food and drink are nationally recognised.

5.9 The college has a sustainability strategy and also has new degree programmes in Sustainable Horticulture and Sustainable Agriculture.

5.10 DA asked about rural area funding and WG asked about apprenticeship levels. JK responded that the majority of apprenticeships are levels 2 and 3. Degree and higher level apprenticeships are being looked at alongside the university partnerships. They will respond to employer demand. However, funding rates make these a large risk.

5.11 RC stated that ESCG’s apprenticeships are also mainly levels 2 and 3. They are exploring degrees, particularly in relation to healthcare.

5.12 JH praised the level of innovation shown by both colleges. He also stated that he felt the LSIP adds to the recognition of the importance of skills in economic development.

5.13 RC said she is keen to explore gaps, such as Wealden and look at mobile delivery. She also stated more information on travel to study for ESCG learners could be gathered and brought to a future meeting.

5.14 The Board was asked to vote to endorse both curriculum plans and did this unanimously.

ACTION 4: More data on student numbers, travel times/home base to be brought to a future Board – ESCG/Plumpton – October 2023/January 2024

6. New Delivery by HE Sector for 2023/24

6.1 TW presented on behalf of the University of Sussex. To attract leading educators and researchers the university has refreshed its HR strategy and will be opening new Centres of Research Excellence.

6.2 Improving digital skills and the understanding of their potential is key with the Universal Quantum computing company, the Data Intensive Science Centre (DISCUS) and the Digital Futures at Work Centre.

6.3 Curriculum review has skills and employability as a key pillar to upskill the workforce. Employer engagement has increased. Skills will be explicit in learning outcomes which is a new departure.

6.4 The university has support mechanisms for asylum-seekers, at risk scholars and forced migrants. There are access schemes to recruit and support students under-represented in HE including those on free school meals.

6.5 Sussex has an annual green careers event. There is also strong research in rewilding and decarbonisation. An online introduction to sustainability certificate course is offered to all first and second year undergraduates.

6.6 DO spoke on behalf of Brighton University. They are working in partnership with Sussex for the Institute of Technology. Five existing degree apprentices are to be delivered through the IoT from autumn 2023. Seven programmes from level 4 to 7 are due for 2024/25.

6.7 A breadth of external engagement feeds into priority two. Brighton has been part of the development of the forthcoming Teachers’ Encounters event which will aim to upskill FE construction and engineering tutors in new technologies. They ensure two-way dialogue with employers through SES Task and Working Group participation and the LSIP.

6.8 Brighton upskills the workforce through adult and degree apprenticeships. These include teaching, data analytics and nursing associates. Some provision, such as the social work degree can be taken as an apprenticeship alongside work which growing numbers of social care staff do.

6.9 Clean Growth UK is the university’s business-led innovation network. This has nearly 3,000 members. Net Zero 360 is its resource for SMEs to aid transition to net zero and to calculate carbon footprint.

6.10 In response to a question about supporting smaller local businesses, TW replied that there is support for Construction and Farming (work with a farm in Lewes on drone technology) and moving towards Net Zero. Knowledge transfer is a key priority for East Sussex. They wish to collaborate, not duplicate.

6.11 DO continued that complimentary working is key. He advised that the programmes due to come onstream are gearing up to the introduction of the LLE (Lifelong Loan Entitlement). The university acknowledges they need to be more responsive to employers while also looking ahead. Provision needs to better align with demand.

6.12 DO made clear that ‘top ups’ will be full qualifications. Increased modular delivery is the way forward. This suits employers and students as well as blended delivery.

6.13 DG noted that much of the development is around apprenticeships. DO advised that for HTQs (Higher Technical Qualifications) people do not need to be employed. The apprenticeships presented are also standard programmes. SWi added that universities are preparing offers to be paid for through the LLE - noting that it is a loan.

6.14 SBu raised how part-time study works with being on benefits. AG advised that DWP would need to see what it looks like. For those not in work and looking for work, the main criterion for benefits payments is being available for work. Hours of study and hours of work may mean this has to be taken case-by-case for individuals on Universal Credit and in work, or individuals who do not have to seek work as part of their claim. The criteria for those who need to seek work or earn more has widened recently.

ACTION 5: Explore flexibility and guidance around study/upskilling for employment and receiving benefits – DWP/AG

6.15 SWi advised that mapping is currently taking place and on-going regarding the journey from FE to HE. Sussex Learning Network are looking at levels 4 to 7, and FE Sussex at levels 2 and 3. One issue is that FE and HE use differing terminologies. This work will identify gaps alongside labour market data as to where provision is needed. An issue can be that adults who have recently completed level 3 wish to either have a break from immediate future study or need to earn – they do not go onto level 4 and above at that point.

6.16 There was discussion about degree level apprenticeships not being widely available. VP stated that the contribution of independent training providers (ITPs) should not be overlooked and may can support higher level learning.

6.17 The board agreed that more strategic links between the universities and colleges is needed and that early consideration of gaps in higher level learning, modular higher level learning (in advance of LLE) should be undertaken with TGs and the Adult Learning Network.

ACTION 6: Explore different models of training delivery – modular, blended and more mobile to help plug gaps in provision – Colleges/Universities/DWP

ACTION 7: Follow up regarding ITPs at next ALN meeting - Secretariat/HA

7. Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) Update

7.1 CWi stated that the roadmap to change was published early, at the end of March 2023. This was in preparation for the LSIF (Local Skills Improvement Fund). There are three themes for the three year action plan:

• Innovation theme: knowledge exchange programmes trialled with employers, especially health and social care and land-based. Work with FE Sussex and SLN on Net Zero and the universities on digital.

• Offer theme: Working together again with Sussex wide CPD offer focussing on local industries.

• Talent theme: Working with a huge range of partners. Mapping CEIAG. Support to employers to recruit and fill gaps – especially under-represented/overlooked talent.

7.2 SWi said that she is working on the CEIAG provision which will be submitted to the board on 5 May. Thirteen annexes will go to the LSIP Board for sign off on 18 May prior to submission to DfE (Department for Education).

Action 8: Amend and update the SES Forward Plan to discuss provision mapping further including SLN’s work – Secretariat/HA
Action 9: Update on LSIP Submission to be added to Forward Plan – HA/Secretariat

8. AOB

8.1 AG spoke as this meeting did not have a dedicated DWP slot. He had found it very useful to see what was happening across the county. He reminded everyone that locally there is a focus on those aged 50+. Daily interactions are now taking place with newly unemployed, this is a pilot so unfunded which adds to workload challenges.

8.2 He advised that hospitality continues to be an area with many vacancies. It is challenging to get employers to engage with older workers and school leavers.

8.3 HA told the Board more about the Skills Summit on 25 May which they had been alerted to via email in late March.

8.4 The Summit, originally planned for Spring 2020 is being delivered on behalf of SES and will be at the Welcome Building in Eastbourne on 25 May from 9am to 4pm. Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies will be delivering the morning keynote on future skills (AI, green technologies and more). The other two main themes of the day will be recruitment, particularly untapped talent, and upskilling. She thanked SES Members who have contributed thoughts to shaping up the agenda and who have agreed to present on the day. There will also be an exhibition where attendees will be able to test out new AI tools.

8.5 HA noted that Always Possible are supporting event organisation and SES members therefore need to look out for emails from them with updates and booking links. A key event for employers, training providers, careers leaders, job coaches and HR professionals this conference will allow cross-sector networking and exchanges of ideas.

8.6 Next meeting, 19th July 2023 at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill. Lunch will be served first, so the time is 1.15pm-4pm. As numbers will need to be finalised for catering, members are asked to confirm attendance as soon as possible.

ACTION 10: Confirm attendance of 19 July Board at DLWP as soon as able – SES Members