University leader takes helm to tackle post-Covid-19 skills challenges

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Date: 8th Jul 2020

Professor Gavin Brooks, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Buckinghamshire New University, is taking the reins of a county-wide group charged by Government with ensuring that the skills taught in universities, schools and colleges match what local employers need for their businesses to thrive, both now and in the future.Professor Gavin Brooks

The Skills Advisory Panel (SAP) brings together local employers and education providers to address the county’s skills challenges, which currently include helping people who have lost their jobs as a consequence of Covid-19 to retrain or transfer their existing skills to another sector.

The SAP, one of many set up in local authority areas across the country since 2018, meets quarterly and reports to the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Board. Its 25 members - who hail from industry, education, Health Education England, Buckinghamshire Council, DfE and BEIS – also include Ian Harper, the University’s Commercial and Business Development Director.

Figures from the LEP show that 28% of Buckinghamshire residents are currently furloughed from their jobs, and that 36% of those residents still in employment are receiving some type of job-related government support.

Professor Gavin Brooks, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Bucks New University, said:

"I’m proud to be appointed as Chair of the Bucks SAP at this critically important time, when many employers and employees will be faced with difficult challenges and issues as the county emerges from the Covid-19 lockdown. Currently, there are real concerns about the business closures and redundancies that could hit Bucks, particularly in the aviation, hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries. That’s why we’re joining forces across the county to identify how people who lose jobs as a consequence of Covid-19 can be retrained, or transfer their existing skills to another sector. I’ll be bringing my experience of working in both industry and higher education to ensure that the SAP does all it can to help boost the county’s economic prospects."

The Buckinghamshire LEP's (BLEP) Local Industrial Strategy focuses on four key areas for which the county of Bucks is internationally-renowned: space (Westcott); creative industries (Pinewood); high performance technology (Silverstone); and digital health/med-tech (Stoke Mandeville).

Bucks New University has received £2.9 million of LEP funding since 2017 to support a variety of projects that benefit the county’s economy and health sector, including: its Health and Digital Business Hubs; a collaboration with Creative Media Skills at Pinewood and the Bucks Health and Social Care Academy.

At the end of 2018, each LEP was asked by the Department of Education to create a SAP in their region to bring together local employers and skills providers. SAPs also advise on, and help implement, funding and investment decisions for local skills and employment provision. SAPs help colleges, universities and other providers to deliver the current and future skills required by employers.

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