A ground-breaking Skills Summit has recently been held at South Devon College.
The event brought together 60 partner employers representing a broad range of sectors to map out the essential needs and objectives for a modern, sustainable curriculum, and develop the skills for a future workforce.
This year’s summit had a sharp focus on green skills, zeroing in on local and national strategies towards achieving sustainability. Influential speakers talked about pivotal developments such as sustainable hydrogen and offshore wind farms, aligning education and training with the path to net zero.
“It’s vital that the employer voice is at the heart of what we do,” said Laurence Frewin Principal of South Devon College.
“This will enable us to plan and deliver a curriculum that develops the skills required for the future workforce and economy.”
The recently launched Fisher Apprenticeship is an example of a new apprenticeship that was developed in partnership with industry bodies and local employers.
Other breakthroughs since the last summit include establishing a closer collaboration with the engineering sector, delivering lessons remotely to the Adult and Social Care apprentices, and developing bitesized courses for Business and Professional students.
“We have also worked closely with the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster to develop a photonics and microelectronics curriculum. This work has involved equipping an electronics and photonics training suite; appointment of sector specialist Associate Lecturers and the development, academic approval and delivery of a new short courses, degree and apprenticeship training programmes,” said Laurence Frewin.
Keynote speaker, Charlotte Bonner, from EAUC (The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education), addressed the summit talking about the new skills needed for navigating our rapidly changing world.
“Green jobs will not be niche. We anticipate that sustainability and climate change will touch every career,” she said.
“Sustainability cannot be solved by one single person or one single organisation. Sustainability is really broad and it covers environmental issues, economic and prosperity, it covers social justice, so no one organisation can fix all those problems. So it’s critical we work collaboratively and in partnership to create solutions that work for the community.
“We need to get the balance right so that colleges and other education providers are developing the right skills that employers need now and in the future.”
Phil Johnston of Celtic Sea Power agreed saying that the skills needed in the offshore wind sector will be stem skills and marine skills.
“What we have in this region is a strong maritime heritage which is extremely important. We want to offer high value careers so people living here and working here are getting higher levels of wages and can stay in the area.”
Paul Coles from South West Business Council highlighted the need for employees to have better digital skills.
“In the not too distant future there is going to be a very significant mismatch in the current skills base and what is now needed especially in AI and machine learning.
“Skills I’m seeing an issue around, core digital skills and people, and that is only going to exacerbate as new technology comes in.
“We may think we have people who are digitally savvy but as AI and machine learning comes more to the fore then there will be that constant acceleration in the need to upskill people.
Pretty much every industry is not going to be immune in having to engage with things like AI and machine learning, and fundamental to all of this is industry and education collaboration.”
During the summit employers actively participated in workshops, discussing the influence of sustainability on business operations and contributing towards shaping a robust, future-ready curriculum. The College’s Business Solutions team will now collate the output of all the discussions that took place to develop curriculum to support employers on their journey to a more sustainable future.