Suffolk and Norfolk education providers team up for £4.75m skills training project

16 November 2023
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The University of Suffolk is partnering with education and industry partners across Suffolk and Norfolk for a major skills project bolstered by £4.75 million from the Department for Education’s Local Skills Improvement Fund (LSIF).

The project is being led by Suffolk New College, with the University of Suffolk, City College Norwich, the College of West Anglia, East Coast College, West Suffolk College, and East Norfolk Sixth Form College all collaborating on the scheme aimed at transforming training opportunities across the region.

Running until March 2025, the funding will support investment in equipment, events, teaching and training, enrichment activities for students, employer engagement and new facilities. Thousands of students and hundreds of businesses will benefit from the investment.

The key themes of the project are green skills and digital skills, with the project including a Digital Futures Conference at The Hold in Ipswich on 13 March 2024 featuring all partners.

The University of Suffolk will work with the partners to design a responsive regional employer training programme, as well as using the funding to enhance digital facilities and equipment, improve employability skills and boost green skills and research capability.

Professor Gurpreet Jagpal, Pro Vice-Chancellor Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Suffolk, said: “Our ambition is to be the regional business support provider of choice and it’s really exciting to be awarded funding through the LSIF to accomplish this.

“Through the funding we will be able to grow and enhance our facilities and services to support the innovation and growth of our local business community and further develop the employability of our students in the areas of digital skills and sustainability. We would like to thank the funders for giving the partnership this opportunity.”

A head and shoulders photo of Gups Jagpal smiling

The Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce teams are key stakeholders, ensuring the objectives of the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) for Norfolk and Suffolk are met, with the local workforce getting the right skills and training to help businesses thrive.    

Local independent training providers will also have the opportunity to get involved in delivering a joint training programme across the region. 

Alan Pease, Chief Executive and Principal at Suffolk New College, said: “This is tremendous news. This is all about us working together with other educational providers to collectively improve our skills provision and make it even more relevant to the needs of the economy and local businesses.

“Our commitment to bring education and industry closer together for the long-term benefit of our communities can only be enhanced by this news.”                              

John Dugmore, Chief Executive of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is good news for Suffolk and Norfolk: for our businesses, our current and future workforce and, therefore, for the sustainable prosperity of our region.                         

“There is a clear line of sight operating with this announcement: the business-led Local Skills Improvement Plan, jointly run by Suffolk and Norfolk Chambers, outlined the skills priority needs of our SMEs – digital, soft or employability skills and those relating to the energy and agri-food sectors. The LSIF being delivered by and through Suffolk New College will now help to deliver the skills development changes required to address them.

“Suffolk Chamber, its members and the county’s wider business community stand ready to work with partners to ensure that Suffolk has the right skills at the right time to deliver the right kind of economy.”

Nova Fairbank, Chief Executive of Norfolk Chambers of Commerce, said: “We are delighted that our region has been successful in securing £4.75m of funding to enable greater collaborations of FE colleges and training providers to meet the employer skills needs outlined in our Local Skills Improvement Plan, published in August this year. 

“Suffolk New College has delivered a winning bid for the LSIF to deliver investment in new facilities and equipment; the development and delivery of new courses and curriculum; and the creation of a more sustainable approach to addressing local skill needs across Norfolk and Suffolk.

“We look forward to the ongoing collaboration with all the colleges and providers and to continuing our mutual journey to bring business and education closer together.”

Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said: “This investment is about boosting local industries, building people’s skills and ultimately futureproofing our economy and the career prospects of the next generation. 
“Our local skills projects will bring together regional organisations, businesses and education providers to respond to the specific needs of employers, building an increasingly skilled workforce and growing local economies. 
“Whether it is green skills, construction, engineering or digital, thousands more people can now gain the skills they need to secure good jobs closer to home. These are long-term plans that will ensure every area can have a brighter future.” 

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