All Party Parliamentary Group for the UK Innovation Corridor (UKIC) brings together further education, business, council leaders and industry experts from London to Peterborough all intent on one thing: ensure its local population has the skills to benefit from the economy of the future.

“This vital and exciting development will provide a ladder of opportunity for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and improve the prestige of skills development.”

Those were the words of Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow and Chair of the Education Select Committee as he provided the keynote address to a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the UK’s Innovation Corridor on Monday 29 April.

The meeting was the launchpad for the UK’s first ever Regional Skills Concordat, a unique and innovative declaration of collaborative intent by the twelve Further Education Colleges and College Groups serving the Corridor from London to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Over 40 attendees came together at the meeting, representing large and small employers, including AstraZeneca and CODEM Composites, local authorities and LEPs along the Corridor, think tanks and industry bodies, to hear how the Colleges have agreed to work together to tackle some key challenges within the skills system.

The Concordat signals the Colleges’ intent to work together on curriculum development, teacher recruitment and employer responsiveness, especially in overlooked or emerging sectors and to support a more regional approach to careers education and skills competitions. Supported by the LSCC (London Stansted Cambridge Consortium), the body behind the UK’s Innovation Corridor, the Colleges will also speak with one voice in making the case to government for future policy and funding changes.

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The meeting heard from Jo Sainsbury, Managing Director of iMET, a joint venture between Peterborough and Cambridge Regional Colleges, which is delivering cutting edge industry-led training in advanced manufacturing and engineering and Kurt Hintz, Principal of the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London and part of the Capital City Colleges Group, both of whom expressed their hope that a truly collaborative approach will bring benefits to local communities and employers along the whole Corridor.

Nearly one in seven UK jobs is located within ten kilometres of the Corridor, and the region has a resident workforce population of 1.8 million. Local Colleges believe that future economic benefit can be delivered to more of the local population by taking a proactive approach to working together and by ‘speaking with one voice’ to employers and government.

Dr Ann Limb CBE, the independent business Chair of the LSCC, led the event and said,

“The future is bright for the UK’s Innovation Corridor, and now is the right time for collective action on skills and productivity. I am determined that the work of FE should be publicly affirmed and I am delighted that the Colleges in the region have come together to bring coherence to our FE offer in a way that has not been done elsewhere.

“From London to the Wash, we have some excellent and innovative provision, and the launch of the Concordat is just the starting point for our ambitions to bring the benefit of our world-class economy to more of our local population. In the coming months, we will be working with the signatories of the Concordat to develop an ambitious agenda for steps we can take on a regional level to make the skills system easier to navigate, to engage more employers in this vital work and to respond to the needs not just of today but of the future too.”

The work of the LSCC was further recognised in the recently published Public service: state of transformation 2019 by the Public Service Transformation Academy: Jonathan Flowers and Robert Pollock

“Creating a space within the very large Local Enterprise Partnership area in their part of the world, a number of organisations including local councils, private companies, and universities and colleges formed the London to Cambridge (via Stevenage and Stansted) Innovation Corridor.[1] This alliance of partner organisations, who share costs, is a model of relevant local determination combined, cunningly, with an All-Party Parliamentary Group dedicated to press the regional economic case in Parliament. Importantly, it has a very strong focus on skills and productivity. When we wrote the original report, the skills agenda was less pressing, but without doubt it is now a critical part of the local public service mix. This ‘coalition of the willing’ demonstrates that world-class sci-tech innovation can collaborate effectively with the local public sector.”

The initial signatories of the Concordat are Peterborough Regional College, Cambridge Regional College, iMET, Harlow College, Stansted Airport College, North Hertfordshire College, Hertford Regional College, Capel Manor College, ADA, the National College for Digital Skills, Waltham Forest College, Capital City Colleges Group and New City College Group.

The Consortium next intends to extend commitment to the Concordat to employers, LEPs, local authorities and universities, developing a genuine regional skills ecosystem for the benefit of local people.

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