Agenda item

Employment and Skills Plans – Updated Report and Skills for Growth Proposal

This report updates the Committee on progress with the implementation of planning policies concerned with promoting Employment and Skills Plans and seeks approval for the proposed delivery framework and Action Plan for targeted employment and skills outcomes.


Further to Minute 11 of the meeting of the Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee held on 7 July 2022, the Executive Director of Economic Growth and Neighbourhood Services submitted a report providing an update on progress made by REDA with the implementation of planning policies concerned with promoting Employment and Skills Plans (ESPs) and seeking approval for the associated delivery framework and action plan.  Attached to the report at Appendix A was an outline 18-month delivery plan for supporting Economic Growth Nov 2022 - Apr 2024.


The report noted that REDA (formerly Reading UK CIC) was the Borough’s preferred economic development partner, managing all aspects of ESPs through both delivery plans and programmes funded by S106 contributions, as set out in the Borough’s Supplementary Planning Document 2013.  The report set out the outcomes of this work to date which showed that REDA had a strong track record of delivering benefits to the local community through using S106 developer contributions, including over the last 18 months providing support to 1,700 local people helping them move forward in the jobs market or into self-employment.  Partnership with both public and private sector partners would continue to be central to delivery of the programmes with match funding and support-in-kind from companies and organisations including Hammerson, Abbey Rotary Group, Reading Business Network, Hilton Reading, Activate Learning, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce and the University of Reading.


The report explained that REDA’s Skills for Growth Group had identified the following priority areas: Start up in the Community; Sector-focused Careers Advice for Schools; Employment and Employability Support (particularly targeted at over 50’s, single parents and other key cohorts); Developing the New Skills employers will need – creative skills, green skills, engineering and construction and Supporting Skills at the heart of Reading’s Economy including construction, technology, hospitality and healthcare.  The framework for ESP delivery would respond to known demand where skills shortages were a regional issue; training would match residents to available local jobs and enterprise opportunities with a particular aim to upskill and retrain to enable residents to access better paid, better quality work with an eye on emerging skills.  In addition, the framework would invest in programmes of support to prepare local people for new and emerging job opportunities from developing sectors: supporting the development of a more environmentally sustainable economy and training for jobs in the emerging ‘green economy’, and providing aspirational support for people to secure work in the rapidly developing creative production sector, much of this enabled by the development of studio space of national significance on Reading’s borders.


The report explained that the proposed programme would feature a greater level of outreach activity through council services and the community and voluntary sectors to ensure it was more accessible and targeted. This could include using neutral and more user-friendly spaces such as libraries and community centres.  Specific groups targeted would include schools in more deprived wards, the over 50s, women and people from minority ethnic communities. Access to opportunity would ensure those with supported employment needs as well as the longer term unemployed were reached.  Much of this work would involve working closely with New Directions (the Council’s own adult education service), statutory agencies and voluntary organisations dedicated to supporting specific communities through adult employment support, sector skills training and government led programmes such as Multiply.


Appendix A to the report set out the detail of the programmes to be delivered between 2022 and 2024 continuing the work to support local people into self-employment, develop sector skills, and find good quality work against a backdrop of rising costs and austerity.  A total of £236,500 of S106 developer contributions was proposed to be allocated across the delivery programmes of Future Skills / New Job Growth, Start Up in the Community, Job and Recruitment Support, Core Skills and Up-Skilling and Small Business Development.


Resolved –


(1)        That the proposed delivery framework for targeted employment and skills outcomes for all parts of Reading’s community, as enabled by Section 106 Employment and Skills Plans and Financial Contributions, be approved;


(2)        That the action plan tailored to the needs of the local economy following the impacts of the cost of living crisis and cost of doing business crisis on residents and small business, and the allocation of £236,500 of S106 developer contributions to support the delivery of the action plan, be approved;


(3)        That the Council continue its commitment to close partnership working to support REDA (the trading name of Reading UK CIC) and its partners to manage and deliver this programme to ensure the sustainable economic recovery of Reading.


(Councillor Brock declared a prejudicial interest in this Item on the grounds that he was a Director and Vice-Chair of REDA.  He left the meeting and took no part in the debate or decision.)

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