By Cllr Lib Peck
Leader of Lambeth Council and Chair of Commission on Community Resilience, Jobs and Growth
I recently chaired the Cooperative Councils Innovation Network’s policy commission on community resilience, jobs and growth.
In our commission report, Unlocking Our Wealth: a cooperative deal for community resilience, jobs and growth, we show how locally-led and cooperative approaches to skills and employment – approaches which are co-designed, build on genuine partnership and unlock the assets of local places – can achieve significantly better economic and social outcomes than current, overly centralised approaches.
In light of this, the report recommends that local authorities like Lambeth sign up to a new deal with our citizens, as well as with businesses and central government. Part of our deal with our citizens is that we commit to helping them at each stage; to providing a coherent pathway that supports every citizen to make decisions about education, skills and work at key stages throughout their life. In return citizens must take these opportunities seriously and do their bit in return.
In support of this, those councils involved in the commission each made a series of specific pledges. In Lambeth, I pledged to deliver 300 new apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships are the key to unlocking skills both for business and for young people – they have developed hugely over the last 10 years and are now available in more and more frameworks and at higher and higher levels.
However, what is clear is that both employers and young people need more information on apprenticeships: what they are, how they work, the fact that you can use apprenticeships to get into professional careers in IT, finance, broadcast technology and even aviation – it’s no longer just about construction and engineering.
As a council we want to make it easier for employers to recruit local apprentices, but employers tell us repeatedly that they find the terrain of apprenticeships confusing. We need to change this. That’s why we’ve devised our Lambeth Apprenticeships Strategy, which aims to deliver a two year programme supporting the creation of, and recruitment to, 300 Lambeth apprenticeships from 2015-2017.
It’s definitely the right time to take action. Lambeth has one of the largest rates of unemployed people of any London borough. However, with over 30,000 jobs potentially being created in the next 20 years and a further 80,000 new jobs outside the borough within easy reach of residents through current regeneration projects (such as Nine Elms regeneration project) it is critical that the Council invests in developing the infrastructure to support access to employment through apprenticeships.
Schools and parents also have a key role to play in the increase in apprenticeship take up. Young people need independent advice on careers which can help them to be aware of, understand and weigh up their options. Not all young people flourish in the academic environment but for many an apprenticeship could be just the right route to a skilled and fulfilling career.
To support our strategy, we therefore need to work together with key partners, such as schools and colleges, adult learning providers and employers and representatives from enterprise. We need to plan and explore a range of potential funding schemes to support apprenticeship activity and to underpin sustainable local growth.
We know from the examples drawn on in our commission that strong local solutions based on effective partnerships deliver the best results. The most successful interventions are those that: recognise the individual as an individual and treat them as one, putting the person above the process; rely on co-production and collaboration, both in values and in practice; and, have an active role for the council as enabler; an agent to stimulate enterprise and to forge those connections.
We’ll be working hard in Lambeth to put these lessons into action as part of our Apprenticeships Strategy; ultimately helping even more of our residents into work. But to really achieve its full potential, we need to work in partnership with Government to design solutions that will work for our areas. We are committed to learning, innovating and sharing data on our costs and outcomes, but we need Government, at all levels, to support this innovation by giving local providers freedom and investing in cooperative solutions so locally, public, private and community sectors can work together to achieve real benefits for citizens.
Cllr Lib Peck is Leader of Lambeth Council and recently chaired the CCIN’s Commission on Community Resilience, Jobs and Growth. She tweets at @cllrpeck.