Malvern Hills and Wychavon Upskilling Project
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- About the Malvern Hills and Wychavon Upskilling Project
In November 2021 Malvern Hills and Wychavon District Councils were given more than £283,000 from the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund to support a range of activities to boost skills, help businesses grow and support people into work. The UK Community Renewal Fund was a UK Government programme for 2021/22. Its aims were to support people and communities most in need across the UK to pilot programmes and new approaches to prepare for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. It invested in skills, community and place, local business, and supporting people into employment
Overall we supported 39 Malvern Hills businesses to which 56 grants were paid out and 41 apprentices were supported with training incentive payments with 27 of these claiming further bursary support for equipment, work clothing and travel.
Wychavon District Council provided 30 businesses with 37 business grants and 32 apprentices were supported with training incentive payments with 13 of these claiming the further bursary support.
These grants allowed businesses to take on and train new staff as well as supported apprentices and trainees through their education. Following the success of this scheme the Upskilling grants will continue to be offered by MHDC and you can find out more here.
The project also delivered the Skills Survey and age friendly support with Helen Astill from HR Solutions.
The Malvern Hills and Wychavon Upskilling Project aims to support people into employment and provide retraining and upskilling. The project also aims to increase the skills of the current and future local workforce, providing the skills to meet business needs for the future.
The Malvern Hills and Wychavon Upskilling Project supports the development of a local needs-focused workforce. The Project assists the local workforce to re-skill and up-skill by supporting access to apprenticeships both financially and non-financially via training courses. The Project also aims to create a workforce linking employees to employers considering the existing intelligence available on local skills needs across local business sectors.
The Project consists of five elements. The first element is the development of a survey to acknowledge business skills needs. Financial support for individuals who want to undertake an apprenticeship and businesses who take on an apprentice is another element of the Project. Subsidised delivery of training courses for colleges/training organisations and one to one support for businesses to adopt age friendly practices are other elements.
A future workforce engagement is the fifth element of the Project. This involves the extension of knowledge collected from the first element and relaying this and other resources to schools via jobs fairs to help bridge the local skills gap.
Performance and impacts
Both business and apprentice beneficiaries of the Upskilling Project were invited to complete a survey to help gather feedback on the Project. It is important to note that both surveys were launched in May 2022, with the majority of business responses received during May and June, and the majority of apprentice responses during June and July. The project was successful at recruiting supporting a significant number of beneficiaries between June and October 2022, meaning that these beneficiaries have not had an opportunity to complete the survey.
Most businesses who received a grant agreed that it supported them with their staff training budget. The most positively received aspects of support by businesses include the quality of course content, the quality of teaching and the training providers capacity to engage.
Business respondents believed that the most common benefits to their workforce as a result of the support was increased confidence and resilience. The second most common benefit, businesses found was increased skill/subject and/or technical knowledge. Barriers mostly overcome as a result of the Upskilling Project were ‘Doubts about business support benefits of the training bursary’ and ‘Dealing with the effects of Covid-19' and ‘Lack of funding to invest in training’.
The majority business survey respondents said their business needs/skills gaps identified in the initial programme survey were ‘fully ‘or ‘partially’ met. Over two-thirds of businesses respondents were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with the project.
Although most apprentice survey respondents said they would have stayed on in their apprenticeship regardless of the support they received, they had achieved a range of employability skills. Nearly all apprentice survey respondents felt the apprenticeship was an opportunity to learn something new and an opportunity to gain real work experience, and that they achieved new skills to develop their career.
Apprentice survey respondents found they gained an understanding of their industry and the working environment. Problem-solving, creativity, teamwork and communication skills were other common skills apprentices gained. Apprentice survey respondents agreed that most common practical benefits of the support were financial support with work related costs such as travel costs. The majority of apprentices felt the support significantly of slightly exceeded their expectations and over nine in ten were very satisfied or satisfied.
An estimated Net Present Value 10-year Gross Value Added benefit of £2.6m would result in a benefit cost ratio (BCR) of 8.8:1 i.e., each £1.00 of public investment will generate £8.80, using the grant funding budget only. This is at the high end of what might be expected for this kind of initiative and the Upskilling Malvern and Wychavon project shows excellent value for money.
Key areas of success
- The Upskilling bursaries was the most successful element of the Project as this gave the most positive impact to beneficiaries. Output targets for bursaries were overachieved.
- Creating and building relationships with businesses in the Malvern Hills and Wychavon districts was a success as a result of the initial research piece carried out which helped identify business needs.
- The UKCRF meant that a proven approach to support could be scaled-up to reach more people and businesses at a much quicker pace.
- The design of the hub for the age-friendly element beneficiaries which includes free policies and procedures templates was a valuable addition to support.
- Bursaries have been the most impactful element of the Project for both apprentices and businesses.
- The Project is economically sound way of delivering upskilling support to benefit individuals, businesses, and the local economy.
- Fitting outcomes into fixed CRF outputs can limit or restrict the focus of activities.
- Buy-in from delivery partners at an early stage would ensure management, securing of resources and partnership working is sufficient and smooth from the onset.
- Reporting and paperwork should be outlined at the start of the Project rather than creating them as and when needed during the Project.
- More time between project design and delivery would have improved marketing for the age-friendly element.
- Targeting larger organisations for the age-friendly would have had a deeper impact. They may have also had more capacity to take up the support.
These provide a platform for further delivery and future success. Building on this platform, future delivery should:
- Increase promotion of future support, including sharing success stories of the current project.
- Make use of the relationships developed with businesses to establish an ongoing pipeline of apprentice opportunities tailored to their needs, which can be shared with education providers.
- Make use of wider County Skills Agenda and the data collated at County level on people looking for apprenticeships. Individual’s skills and interests can be matched to businesses with appropriate opportunities.
- Ways must be considered to develop meaningful bilateral engagements with schools or training providers to support the Project.
Looking ahead to future funding opportunities like Shared Prosperity Funding, thought will need to be given to output definitions, considering the evidence needed for outputs and whether they match intended Project activities.