Northern Skills Network – Official Launch

On 13th February 2020, the NSN was officially launched with a conference held in Leeds. It was also an opportunity to launch a new strategic relationship between the NSN and NCFE, who have joined the NSN Board.

The conference was attended by over 130 people representing training organisations, colleges, universities, stakeholders, Government officials and sector support companies. The Northern Skills Network is designed to provide a vehicle for flagging up skills issues that are pertinent to the North of England and feeding in intelligence to the Northern Powerhouse debate. Members should note that Jake Berry MP is no longer the Minister in Charge of the Northern Powerhouse. He has been replaced by Simon Clarke MP whose role will be to promote the Government’s “levelling up” agenda and Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, who will represent the Northern Powerhouse at Cabinet-level.

A  number of keynote speakers presented at the conference:

Roger Marsh, Chair of the NP 11 Network (11 N LEPs) and Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse, who both welcomed the NSN as a vehicle for setting out a vision for skills across the North and tackling the key skills challenges that face us. Collectively, the NSN and its 9 Regional Networks bring together 300+ providers who deliver some 45% of the N’s Apprenticeship programmes

Chris Morgan, Deputy Director of Technical Education, IfATE gave an update on the development of T Levels. It is clear that we have a long way to go in terms of developing and rolling out T levels. There are concerns about how the programme is compatible with the concept of social mobility, how T levels link to Apprenticeships and also whether T levels are sufficiently flexible to address local skills needs.

Chris Jones, Specialist Advisor to Ofsted, gave an update on the emerging findings of the first 6 months of Ofsted inspections. Key issues remain; the effective use of assessments, development of appropriate curriculum and off the job training. Chris also spoke about the publication of Ofsted’s recent annual report where the significant and marked drop off of Level 2 Apprenticeship starts has been flagged as an area of real concern.

The slides from the conference can be seen here

Alongside this, Ian Lomas of GMLPF, facilitated one of the workshops at the conference that focused on the ESFA Sub-Contracting Consultation. Paul Johnson and Chris Lews from the ESFA gave a presentation on the rationale and focus of the consultation. Following on from this GMLPF will be holding a series of small workshops for members on this theme in order to outline ESFA thinking, gather feedback and submit a sector-wide response to the consultation

The event was a resounding success and feedback from delegates has highlighted the need for a Northern based body or grouping of local Skills Networks to come together to undertake research and provide a voice for N Learning Providers, working alongside AELP who have the national remit.