Although Local Enterprise Partnerships are not new – in fact, they have been around for ten years, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) network has been growing in importance as LEPs play an increasingly active role in the local delivery of national government strategy. Recognising this, UKWA has been actively forging closer links and planning to work in greater partnership with the LEP network to the benefit of members.
Aligned with the purpose of the Combined Authorities in the devolvement of power from Westminster, Local Enterprise Partnerships bring together local authorities and local businesses to play a central role in deciding local economic priorities, as well as undertaking activities to drive local economic growth.
The global pandemic and consequent lockdown this year has highlighted the importance of our sector to government as vital to keeping the nation fed and clothed, as well as being key to the recovery of the economy. Therefore, development of a stronger relationship between this industry and the LEP network is both timely and relevant.
The ultimate goal is to secure relationships with LEPs nationwide, but in the first instance UKWA has targeted areas where logistics operations cluster and are acknowledged as an important driver of the local economy. For example, the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP (CWLEP), which has identified logistics as a priority sector for skills support, offers incentives for recruitment and has funding available for training and upskilling the local workforce.
With a target to re-train and/or upskill over 40,000 workers in the area, CWLEP has set up a ‘Skills Support for the Workforce’ scheme, co-financed by the Education and Skills Funding Agency and the European Social Fund – which provides access to a wide range of training at no cost to small and medium sized businesses (less than 250 employees) based within the Coventry & Warwickshire LEP area.
This training, which is managed by Serco in partnership with CWLEP, is delivered through a network of expert training providers.
As the economic fall out from the COVID-19 crisis continues, the rising unemployment rate is high on the government agenda at both national and local level. From an industry point of view, this is balanced against the usual labour shortages faced by the warehousing and logistics sector as peak approaches, which have been further exacerbated this year by the explosive increase in online shopping and the consequently accelerated drive toward greater levels of automation.
By identifying and linking with the LEP network as an effective channel of funding and support for recruitment, upskilling and retraining, UKWA is looking to seize the opportunity to recruit new workers from outside the industry, retrain and upskill existing workforces in preparation for the new digital world and fulfil its commitment to provide members with support for sustainable business growth.