Could creating more regionalised skills development strategies be the solution to closing our growing skills gaps?

How Local Skills Improvement Plans are changing the adult skills landscape

04 March 2024

In 2022 with many providers facing significant obstacles to making the dreams of robust adult skills delivery a reality, the Department for Education introduced Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) to help employers and providers work together to address the skills shortages affecting their local communities. By placing employers at the centre of skills development and prioritising the skills that local people and businesses need, key local stakeholders can address skills gaps and improve local economies.

The introduction of LSIPs

Prior to the introduction of LSIPs there was a sense in government that there needed to be more alignment between the courses offered by training providers and the skills shortages that workplaces were facing. LSIPs were created as an opportunity for providers and employers to get together, led by Employer Representative Bodies (ERBs) such as the Federation of Small Businesses, or Chambers of Commerce in industry to discuss which skills were most needed to support the local economy and what could be done to address growing skills gaps. 

To support this plan the 38 regions identified across the UK were given funding to action a local skills improvement plan in partnership with employers and providers as part of the post-16 Skills Act that was introduced in 2022. 

How LSIPs are influencing skills development 

The outcome of these LSIPs is an analysis of labour market information, employer input and the scoping of employers for the skill shortages they are already experiencing, and those they can see coming down the line thanks to developments in technology and sustainability practices. The 38 regions then used this data to identify key target areas for improved skills development over a three-year period. These plans from the ERBs are approved by the Secretary of State for Education who also has intervention powers for FE colleges, if they do not adjust their planning and curriculum to take account of skills needs identified in their region. 

Once key target areas were identified, funding from the Local Skills Investment Fund (LSIF) was made available via an application process to be used by a collaborative regional partnership to make the necessary infrastructure changes to support the skills needs in their area. If a provider has multiple hair and beauty qualifications and facilities but their region needs digital or engineering training, or additional green or sustainability modules added to current provision, then funds can be used to equip an IT or engineering workshop and to train or hire the tutors needed. 

The challenges facing LSIP stakeholders

The goal of LSIPs is to align providers, employers and learners on a local level and meet skills needs, but there are a number of challenges facing the LSIP regions to close their local skills gaps. One key issue facing stakeholders is the lack of understanding of the adult skills funding available through the Adult Education Budget, which can help employers and the workforce with courses and programmes needed to upskill and reskill. 

Employers may recognise their own skills shortages and the areas in which their employees need to develop in order to support business growth, but still often remain unaware of the courses and funding streams they might be able to access. Training might be seen as an unnecessary expense or as something that they just don’t have time for, leading them to miss out on training opportunities that could help them to better support their employees and business and improve productivity. 

Likewise, many training providers may struggle to fully communicate their offerings to regional employers.  LSIP regions could focus on outreach to help raise awareness of the adult skills training opportunities they can deliver. Stronger relationships between providers and local employers be created to help businesses take advantage of courses suited to them and so that people searching for employment have help in finding job roles upon completion of their training. 

Supporting the success of LSIPs

As of summer 2023, all 38 LSIPs are officially approved and ready for implementation with providers and employers expected to be prepared to adapt their practices to fit local plans. For this to be successful, a committed and coordinated effort will be necessary from everyone involved in skills development and as both a training and awarding organisation, City & Guilds is heavily engaged in delivering adult skills training. 

There are many courses that City & Guilds offers in key industries targeted by the LSIPs, such as apprenticeships, T Levels or technical qualifications in engineering or construction. One of the biggest contributions we are able to make is to cross-sector skills development, which often comes in the form of individual modules which are applicable to a wide range of sectors and businesses.

Many employers have similar skills needs regardless of the service they provide. Skills in communication, IT and digital, customer service and leadership and management will be relevant whether someone is working as a mechanic or in a restaurant, so programmes that can help develop these skills will be useful to a wide range of businesses looking to upskill their staff. Businesses are also looking to stay ahead of technology developments and keep up with the demand for more sustainable practices meaning that courses teaching about artificial intelligence or developing green skills will continue to become increasingly important. 

Whether it’s courses in leadership and management delivered with ILM or a manufacturing apprenticeship, the right training can unlock new capabilities and opportunities for learners, whether it’s securing a promotion from a current job or entering employment for the first time. By aligning these courses with key regional needs, providers and employers can work together to serve their communities, helping to improve individuals’ careers and building a future ready workforce that boosts a local economy. 

Learn more about our adult skills qualifications and the funding available for training