LSIF - MK College


What is LSIF?

The Local Skills Improvement Fund (LSIF) is part of a long-term change programme. It is concerned with investing in the new facilities, provision and teaching expertise needed to deliver the skills priorities set out in the Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs). Both of which are a key part of the Government’s 10-year vision set out in the Skills for Jobs White Paper.

The outcome of the LSIP has defined an agreed set of actionable priorities that employers, providers, and stakeholders in a local area can get behind to drive change. They have placed employers at the heart of local skills systems and facilitated direct and dynamic working arrangements between employers and providers.

The primary purpose of LSIF is to address the gap between what the sector delivers and the skills needed by the local labour market. We achieve this through strategic planning and investment in skills at an area-wide level. To meet this requirement, we have formed a collaborative group.

Who are members of the collaboration?

The following Further Education Institutions fall within the South-East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP):

  1. MK College Group
  2. Barnfield College
  3. Bedford College Group
  4. Moulton College
  5. Northampton College

How are we responding?

The collaboration of colleges in the SEMLEP have agreed to work together to deliver the following 4 projects:

P1: Green Jobs and Skills

Bedford College firmly believes in the urgent need to focus education on sustainable solutions in the construction industry. With the increasing global focus on environmental preservation and carbon footprint reduction, it is crucial that we shift towards greener practices. Our proposal aims to give a greater number of learners the skills, knowledge, and behaviours to leverage cutting-edge green technologies to enhance energy efficiency, reduce waste, and promote a more sustainable future for the construction sector.

The project will cover the following areas:

  1. We will invest a significant portion of capital to advance research and development activities, focusing on the teaching of the design and implementation of green technologies in construction. This will include the addition of space, exploration of new materials, improved construction techniques, and advanced energy-efficient systems.
  2. The funding will be utilised to integrate green technologies into our curriculum. This will involve the purchase and installation of renewable energy training systems, such as solar panels, heat pumps and wind turbines, as well as the incorporation of energy-efficient building materials, smart home automation systems and retrofit. The opportunity to extend into other related curriculum areas will be explored, including Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Motor Vehicle and Health.
  3. We believe in the importance of knowledge dissemination and capacity building. A portion of the funding will be allocated to training programs and educational initiatives aimed at promoting awareness and understanding of green technologies in the construction industry. We will organise workshops, seminars, and online resources to educate contractors, architects, and other stakeholders about the benefits and best practices of green construction and the relevant soft skills. Events to demonstrate the technologies will be organised for schools and employers to learn about the possibilities.

Expected Outcomes:

  1. Our projects will show learners how the technology can significantly reduce energy consumption using renewable energy sources and advanced energy management systems, resulting in a considerable decrease in carbon emissions and operational costs.
  2. Our focus on sustainable materials and waste reduction strategies will explain how to minimise resource consumption, promote recycling, and contribute to a circular economy in the construction sector.
  3. By adopting green technologies, we will demonstrate how to actively contribute to the preservation of natural resources, including water conservation and protection of biodiversity, as well as mitigating the environmental impact associated with traditional construction practices.
  4. Disseminate how green technology integration will generate economic opportunities, including job creation, fostering innovation, and attracting investments in the renewable energy and sustainable construction sectors.

Investing in the skills and knowledge required regarding green technology in construction is a crucial step towards a sustainable future. With the funding we are requesting, we will be able to drive innovation, reduce carbon emissions, and create a positive impact on the environment and society.

Priority 8 – Development and availability of capital and human resource in green/sustainable/decarbonisation

The project will not be used to duplicate other funding streams but will add value to our other skills programmes that have been identified.

P2: Improve understanding and communication between employers and training providers

We believe that key to the success of LSIP (and any activity between employers and training providers) is that employer partners notice a genuine change in the way providers seek to engage them. If employers see that the time, they are spending on influencing the skills landscape results in training that helps them with a more productive environment or overcomes challenges, then we will be in a great position to build on these relationships.

Communication is clearly key to this. Understanding the right channels, language and key pain points will help overcome some of the barriers to engaging with education, outlined in the LSIP, including the 23% of respondents who said they did not see the value in engaging with training providers.

This project will have four key outputs:

  1. Develop research to increase understanding of employer skills communication preferences.
  2. A marketing and communications campaign across the area to showcase the training available through providers and overcome objections / misconceptions identified in the research.
  3. Focus greater research on the LSIP priority sectors of digital, green skills, logistics and healthcare to understand the specific nuances of these sectors, establish ongoing sector boards and immediate skills requirements.
  4. Capital plans for resources required to support immediate need in the digital, green skills, logistics and healthcare sectors as identified by research. (Year 2)

Clearly the LSIP identified common frustrations from employers that colleges do not speak the language of business and a lack of understanding of training currently available. Our first project will seek to unpick this, to understand any perceived barriers and how employers would like to engage with skills on an ongoing basis. Our second output will then be a campaign to respond to this, highlighting training already available and changing the narrative on any misconceptions.

Whilst we believe this will have a broad impact, it would obviously be foolish to assume that all employers in all sectors will have the same challenges or communication preferences. This is why outputs 3 and 4 will specifically dive into four LSIP priority sectors to undertake deeper research and gain a greater level of understanding, working to establish Sector Boards, so that relationships can develop over time. These sectors are also being prioritised for our other LSIF projects, helping us to amplify the work we are doing.

Finally, it is anticipated that capital money be allocated to this project in year two to help us form an instant response to the training needs identified by the research.

This LSIF project connects most closely with three of the identified LSIP priorities:

  • Priority 3 – raise awareness of existing provision.
  • Priority 5 – communicate with employers who do not already have relationships with colleges.
  • Priority 6 – develop a shared business language and identify needs for niche provision.

The project will not be used to duplicate other funding streams but will add value to our other skills programmes that have been identified.

P3: Tackling the digital skills gap

If there was a clear underlying area that employers identified would be a priority over the next 5-10 years, it was in digital. In fact, almost half (45%) identified digital as the area they would need to invest in, by far the largest specific area identified.

A clear challenge here is the scope of digital requirements needed. The SEMLEP area contains technology and data companies at the forefront of global digital innovation whilst also being home to agricultural businesses who more than anything, just need a reliable WIFI connection.

This project will therefore have four key outputs:

  1. Increase capacity to deliver short, sharp training courses including vocational, technical, and soft skills to employers in an agile way.
  2. Engage employers who have infrastructural blockers which prevent them from engaging with digital skills.
  3. Closing the digital divide facing some employers by providing enhanced basic digital literacy.
  4. Increasing the talent pipeline by inspiring more young people to consider digital career pathways.

The immediate need for digital skills to aid productivity is clear and urgent. The first outcome of this project will therefore need to significantly increase the array of short, sharp training courses available to employers. We need to ensure that we have the technology, space, and expertise to deliver a new array of programmes in a more flexible way.

A second outcome will be to engage those employers for whom there are infrastructural blockers to engaging with digital skills. This might be due to their rural location or a lack of basic understanding of key areas such as cyber security.

Next is ensuring that we help to close the digital divide some businesses face. In our increasingly digital society, ensuring that smaller businesses in traditional sectors that have not engaged with technology before have basic digital literacy, the ability to take payments and benefit from automation will be important to ensure they are not left behind.

Whilst the above with help meet some of the short-term needs of employers, it will not address a larger, more systemic issue – the lack of diverse talent seeking a career in the digital sector and those not able to demonstrate the required soft skills. Research shows that IT is one of the most dropped subjects when students are choosing their GCSE options and that the pipeline of young talent is not increasing at the same rate as demand. This is particularly true for girls and BAME students who are significantly underrepresented within the digital sector. The fourth outcome will therefore be a co-ordinated approach to help inspire students in schools to pursue digital careers with a particular focus on underrepresented groups.

This LSIF project connects most closely with the following LSIP priorities:

  • Priority 1 – Support businesses with new technologies
  • Priority 4 – Providing accessible training opportunities

The project will not be used to duplicate other funding streams but will add value to our other skills programmes that have been identified.

P4: Health and science capacity-building

Health and Social Care is a National Priority identified by government.  While preparing the LSIP, the ERB began work with health representatives and has identified that more engagement with employers in this sector is also a priority in the South East Midlands. This LSIF project, while not overlapping with the ongoing work of the ERB on the LSIP, will enable training providers to support health and care employers with their workforce pipeline across our region.

This project will include capacity-building activities to enable colleges to provide the specialist training required to secure a pipeline of staff who have the skills and knowledge needed for priority health and care roles.

Project activities will include:

  1. Engagement with employers in the NHS on effective support to their workforce pipeline, including priority roles and the skills and knowledge required for these.
  2. Upskilling of college staff in current practices in healthcare.
  3. Capital build/works if required to establish training facilities for the existing health and science workforce and those aspiring to join it.
  4. Capital equipment purchases to enable specialist training.
  5. The development of employer involvement in training delivery, to support niche/specialist skills and knowledge delivery.

Outputs from this project will be:

  1. Colleges will have the capacity (facilities, equipment, and staff with required skills/knowledge) to provide training required for the health and care workforce pipeline in the region.
  2. Colleges will have strong, collaborative links with health and care employers that enable effective joint work to address challenges in staffing key health and care roles.
  3. College and health and care employers in the region will develop a strategic approach to secure the health and care workforce for the future.

This project relates to the draft LSIP:

  • Care and health services identified as having occupational shortages and facing significant skills gaps.
  • Priority 3: Work with employers to contextualise the generic qualifications.
  • Work with and take advantage of skills provision available through identified future technologies (and developments in practice) as well as new technologies already being used or available as stated in Priority 1.
  • Priority 1 & 3 desired outcomes: Employers have a clearer skills/career path for their workforce.
  • Delivery targeted to current workforce, upskilling to overcome “lag”.

This project will not duplicate or displace activities for which funding from other sources has been provided, nor work already undertaken by the ERB and funded through the LSIP.

Each project has a defined Project Lead Provider. Those project leads can work with Collaboration Delivery Providers and Wider Partners. You can find a full definition of these three roles in the LSIF guidance available here Funding Guidance for the Local Skills Improvement Fund Stage 1. Please take note of the requirements for each role in both the Mobilisation and Delivery stages and the associated due diligence that will be necessary.