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Building better links between LEPs and construction

In line with the government’s localism agenda, 32 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) have now been approved across England. Taking the place of regional development agencies (RDAs), their purpose is to bring local authorities and local businesses together to tackle enterprise issues at a local level.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has placed much emphasis on the creation of these collectives. With this in mind, there is a significant need for the construction and the built environment industry to be at the forefront of the localism agenda.

As a priority sector, it is essential that construction receives the right level of support from LEPs to ensure that knowledge and capacity are in place to support the sector in the long term. In order for LEPs to work in the best possible way, it is also vital that local councillors, businesses and skills agencies like CITB-ConstructionSkills work together to ensure that knowledge, experience and expertise are shared.

The CSN forecast predicts that the UK needs 43,000 newly trained and qualified recruits each year until 2015 to fulfil national demand. With the government’s emphasis on carbon reduction and the new ‘green agenda’ also presenting new business opportunities, the need to sustain and develop skills in the construction industry has never been more important.

This has led to concerns in some quarters that LEPs are in danger of becoming disconnected from national skills needs. Without the necessary understanding and connection with the construction and built environment sector, the local focus of LEPs could take precedence over national sector priorities, if not managed effectively.

One way that dialogue is being encouraged is through Builder’s Breakfast events, one of which recently took place in Sheffield, organised by CITB-ConstructionSkills in partnership with the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) and Sheffield Council.

The roundtable event brought together local government representatives, business leaders and local construction SMEs, to explore ways of supporting increased growth and the creation of sustainable local jobs within the sector. It also addressed issues affecting the local economic revival of the construction industry and those future skills which will be needed to boost both the local and national economy.

At the event, three key pieces of advice for all LEPs were highlighted:

  • A local member of the construction sector to be appointed to each LEP board
  • A sub-committee for construction to be created within each LEP and/or participation of employers and CITB-ConstructionSkills on LEP housing, planning, skills, employment and infrastructure sub-committees
  • A formal process between BIS local teams and CITB-ConstructionSkills developed to integrate our key skills and training information and advice into LEP strategic planning.

Giving the industry a voice within LEPs will not only safeguard local jobs and skills, but also ensure that the UK as a whole is best placed to meet future business opportunities. Only by making LEPs true partnerships can we deliver the right skills for economic growth both locally and nationally.

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Steve Horscroft
Steve Horscroft
12 years ago

A couple of important points: LEPs are not ‘replacing’ RDAs. This suggests a like for like process which is not the case in terms of capacity. Also, having a particular sector represented on a board is not going to be achievable when there are probably only a dozen or so (including public sector) individuals on each board. It is more important for board members to have a range of expertise.

Finally, ‘skills’ are both a national and a local issue; many LEP regions will have a USP and key areas where they want to improve the skills base in order to take advantage of economic opportunities.

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