Green and digital skills have been identified as a priority to support economic growth in Chesterfield and North Derbyshire.
Speaking at the sixth annual Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Skills and Employability Conference (9 February 2022), Fiona Baker Head of People and Skills at D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership said: “We lag behind the rest of the UK in terms of productivity, and this is because our workforce doesn’t have the right skills.
“There has been an exponential increase in employer demand for digital skills recently. Businesses and education and training providers must work together to ensure that young people are equipped with the right skills to meet the local growth agenda.”
With more than 16,000 students in North Derbyshire set to gain their GCSE and A level qualifications in the next five years and thousands of jobs expected to be created following investment in Staveley, the free conference brought together business leaders and the education community to address the future employability and skills of young people.
The conference followed the Department for Education’s announcement last year that it plans to reform post-16 technical education and training to support people to develop the skills needed to get good jobs and improve national productivity.
Organised by Chesterfield Borough Council and Destination Chesterfield, with support from D2N2 Careers Hub – Derbyshire North, the conference also heard from businesses and education and training providers in the local area.
Nick Catt, Managing Director of Weightron Bilanciai who spoke at the conference urged local providers to work together, saying: “Schools, colleges and businesses need to engage with each other to identify the skills needed in the economy. Having a generic approach to skills doesn’t work as every local economy is different.”
Julie Richards, Principal and CEO of the Chesterfield College Group, welcomed the proposed changes to post-16 education saying: “”The need has never been greater to work in partnership to provide our young people with post 16 options which ensure everyone in our society has opportunities to develop at all levels. We must meet their needs, and the needs of our economy now and in the future.”
Cllr Amanda Serjeant, Deputy Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council and vice chair of Destination Chesterfield added: “The conference has highlighted that one in 4 young people fall out of their post-16 education choice at age 17. We must ensure that young people get the right information at 16 and that they make an informed decision to take up the correct training provision for their own future. In turn this will help ensure they get the right training to work in highly skilled jobs which will contribute to a thriving local economy and provide a high quality of life for local people.
“It is crucial that we look to the future and the skills we will need to transition to a low carbon economy in Chesterfield. Ensuring that we have the right mix of skills to support a sustainable future is key to mitigating the effects of the climate crisis. It was great to hear from employers and training providers about how they will be helping to support this transition and providing the skills needed to support a low carbon, high value local economy.”
Around 100 people attended the conference at Speedwell Rooms in Staveley. The annual conference aims to strengthen links between education providers and local businesses to ensure that school leavers are work ready and have the skills required by businesses in the area. As well as representatives from the business community and skills and education providers, students from Springwell Community College, which is based in Staveley, also joined the conference.
Emily Carter, Operational Careers Hub Lead at D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership said “For young people, meeting employers and experiencing different workplaces is a key element in helping them find their best next step. We are delighted that local cornerstone employers, strategic partners of the D2N2 Careers Hub and Careers & Enterprise Company joined the conference to share best practice, and a huge thanks to the young people from Springwell Community College who facilitated table discussions.
With a regeneration programme currently underway in Staveley and thousands of jobs expected to be created over the next few years, Ivan Fomin, Chair of Staveley Town Deal commented: “It’s important that businesses, the council and education and training providers work together to make sure these opportunities are fully realised for local people. The Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Employability and Skills Conference is the first step in making this happen.”