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Agenda item

Skills Development Scrutiny Review Report - Update on Progress of Recommendations

Joint Report of the Director of Transformation and Partnerships and the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services – Presented by the Employability Manager, Regeneration and Local Services.



The Chairman asked the Overview and Scrutiny Officer to update Members in terms of the progress made with the recommendations of the Economy and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Working Group review of the support provided for skills development within County Durham (for copy see file of minutes).


The Overview and Scrutiny Officer noted Officers were also in attendance to help answer any queries from Members, namely: Strategic Manager – Progression and Learning; Employability Manager; Principal Area Action Partnership Coordinator, Andrew Megginson.  


Members were reminded that a number of recommendations had been agreed by the working Group following its review in 2015/16, which had involved officers from DCC, partners from Colleges and training providers, employers and with several site visits to speak to them and ask what skill they needed for the future.  Councillors were reminded that the report and recommendations had been agreed by Cabinet in October 2016 and reported to the County Durham Economic Partnership in November 2016. 

Members were asked to note the progress with the nine recommendations as set out in the report at Appendix 2 and were asked for their questions.


Mr T Batson recalled that the review had been conducted well and when visiting industry they had very receptive and positive as regards the Council’s involvement.  He asked in relation to recommendation 5, proactive promotion of the importance of careers advice within schools, was there anything new being done and were all levels of education being looked at and how to track the real progress of our young people. 


The Strategic Manager – Progression and Learning noted the destinations are measured when young people leave school, Key Stage 4 (KS4), and there is data available of destinations upon leaving college (KS5), and Higher Education establishments record information also.  It was noted that careers advice and work experience were statutory duties for schools, after changes in legislation, with DCC supporting them. 


Councillor R Crute noted the strong progress in terms of the recommendations, and noted the value of bringing schools and businesses together to help better inform as regards options that were available.  He added that the impact of the new school funding formula may cause the careers advice and work experience work in schools to suffer as their budgets come under increasing pressure.


Councillor J Clare noted he found it difficult to assess progress being made against the recommendations without a set of actions.  He noted there did not seem to be much in terms of the apprenticeship levy though did not know if this was a good or a bad thing and asked for any areas of success or concern to be highlighted with Members.


The Employability Manager noted it was still early and work was ongoing with the small and medium sized companies as regards this.  He added that larger companies had already looked at the issue within their business plans and the smaller companies appeared to be “holding their breath” to see how things develop.  He noted that national Apprenticeship Grants for Employers (AGE) had ended and DCC grants that had mirrored these had also ended.  Members noted that DurhamWorks had helped, though this too would end, and that the next set of EU funding may be the last opportunity to help secure support and it was explained that while there was a lot of interest from employers, for small and micro businesses a little financial incentive went a long way.


The Principal Area Action Partnership Coordinator explained, in relation to recommendation 6, that employability and skills had been a priority for 8 of the 14 AAPs, and young people and families was an issue all 14 AAPs had set as a priority.  He added that currently there were 92 live projects, supported by approximately £1 million of funds from AAPs and Councillors’ Neighbourhood Budgets.  It was added that the AAPs worked with the Employability Manager and DurhamWorks to see how the AAPs could help “fill the gaps”.  Councillors noted work from employability skills through to engineering apprenticeships and examples of help to funding “coding clubs” in primary schools to help young people develop an interest and skill in this area.  The Principal Area Action Partnership Coordinator noted the potential EU funding mention relating to community led development programme.



Councillor J Atkinson noted at the last meeting he had asked as regards the reasons why young people did not complete their apprenticeships and asked whether there was a way of looking at the recruitment process and for DCC to be involved to try and ensure the process was as correct as it could be in order to have sustainable apprenticeships.


The Employability Manager noted that young people were referred, for example from the Job Centre, and they would have a one-to-one advisor looking at their skills and providing support such as interview techniques.  On the employer side, Business Advisors would work with employers to create opportunities and then we would look to marry the two together.  It was added that employers would look to have a choice and Business Advisors would look to match up with several young people and while the majority of young people and employers worked to succeed, this is not always the case, it was a two-way match.  Councillor J Atkinson asked how we look at the instances where it had not worked to find out the reasons why.  The Chairman noted that the committee had previously looked at apprenticeships in detail and that the information could be forward to Councillor Atkinson.


Councillor L Maddison noted that 800 volunteers ambassadors was very good, however, asked how they were selected and how were outcomes measured, and also asked as to the work DCC carried out with schools in supporting information, advice and guidance, were teachers picking up on the help on offer.


The Strategic Manager – Progression and Learning noted that the Business Ambassadors were volunteers and were trained by DCC, and then the Authority would look to offer Ambassadors to schools, looking for a good fit for the school and business, looking at several criteria including geography.  It was added around 70-80 were trained each year.  In respect of the professional development for teachers in relation to careers advice, DCC offered a two stage development opportunity, with a small number of schools, around 12 having taken up the opportunity.


Councillor E Adam noted in relation to Appendix 2, Item 2, the North East Area Report, how could Members access this and added that with devolution on hold, how would the County be able to access funding of this nature.


The Strategic Manager – Progression and Learning noted she could circulate the report, noting Tees Valley had overturned all the recommendations.  She confirmed that the authority had access to the Adult Education Budget and the Adult Skills and Further Education Budgets, though in devolution areas this would have been flexible and with more control for providers, in non-devolution areas it would remain nationally controlled.    Councillor E Adam noted he had thought that the proposed devolution would cost Local Authorities more in the long run and noted that the time and effort that had been wasted in terms of the North East Area Report was very disappointing.


Councillor P Sexton asked whether funding or resources had been factors in AAPs citing a drop in apprenticeships as priorities shifted.  The Principal Area Action Partnership Coordinator noted that now 8 of the 14 AAPs had skills as a priority, compared to 11 of 14 previously in 2014/15.  It was added that this may be an area that AAPs would focus on again and may come back to.






(i)         That the report be noted.

(ii)        That the Economy and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee receive a     further progress update on the review recommendations at a future meeting.


Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
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