Bristol: Working closely with local partners to co-produce an innovative employment and skills offer in South Bristol

Through the development of a Work Local model, the council wants to improve employment, skills and workforce development opportunities. By engaging with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to understand their future workforce needs, and working with local partner agencies, the city council is building a support offer for local residents to develop job opportunities and career pathways.


South Bristol has almost 150,000 residents, including many that experience inter-generational unemployment and low incomes, and 4,000 SMES that often feel remote from our Local Industrial Strategy. We’ve set out to connect local businesses better with education, skills, employment and business support providers, whilst also giving SMEs a stronger profile, as well empowering them to access new routes to market and peer-to-peer networks and improvements. Place based planning for a stronger community and economy is even more critical as we begin the recovery from the COVID-19 emergency.”

Jane Taylor, Head of Employment, Skills and Learning, Bristol City Council


Background

In 2015, Bristol City Council was successful in applying for UNESCO Learning City status – becoming the first Learning City in England with a strong emphasis on place based partnership and leadership across all education, skills and employment policy areas.

Through the development of a Work Local model, the council wants to improve employment, skills and workforce development opportunities. By engaging with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to understand their future workforce needs, and working with local partner agencies, the city council is building a support offer for local residents to develop job opportunities and career pathways.

An opportunity has arisen through the West of England Combined Authority’s Workforce of the Future team to apply for legacy EU funding. The South Bristol Business, Education & Skills Consortium is applying for funding for a project working with SMEs. The area of focus is South Bristol. The analysis has shown that the number of individuals, aged 16-64, with no qualifications has halved between 2011 and 2018 in South Bristol. While this is welcome, the rate of growth has been slower compared with the City of Bristol as a whole.

The data also showed that while the number of jobs has risen between 2010 and 2019 in South Bristol, the growth in jobs is primarily in occupations requiring lower qualification levels (e.g. elementary occupations and process, plant and machine operatives), whereas growth in jobs generated in Bristol require higher levels of qualifications (managers and directors).

To aid with the exploration of this challenge, Shared Intelligence conducted analysis on the level of employment, qualification level and level of education in South Bristol and supported the delivery of two workshops with key stakeholders.


The approach they are taking

As a means to engage with partners to develop a funding application, Bristol Council hosted two workshops: one with employment and skills strategic planners and commissioners (including the council, West of England Combined Authority and Department for Work and Pensions as well as SME representatives), and one with local training providers serving SMEs and local communities (including anchor institutions such as colleges and universities).

The aim of convening these workshops with key partners was to explore what steps needed to be taken to address high levels of unemployment, low qualification levels and low business engagement in South Bristol. The co-design of a programme of support was the main focus of the events and partners were asked to reflect on what is working well and what could be done differently to strengthen the local economy by improving the eco-system and services for local businesses and local people.

Partners came together to build a consortium and develop a shared commitment to a local way of working on this agenda. This requires strengthening engagement with the local SMEs based in the most deprived communities by helping them access recruitment and workforce development support. This would be delivered through working with SMEs to build area and sector networks, encouraging more inclusive recruitment cultures and practices and targeting work experience, work trials and apprenticeship opportunities. It would also seek to develop a more coordinated, forward looking curriculum offer through high quality open source resources.

This in turn will help build a thriving local economy and community and, in the long-term, improve life chances and outcomes for residents.


Learning

The learning from the work across Bristol City Council and its partners relates to their detailed planning and engagement. By focusing their attention on a hyper-local geography of South Bristol, the council has engaged with partners to explore a granular level of detail around the challenges faced by both the supply and demand-side of skills provision.

By working closely with partners from an early stage, the council has encouraged a high level of understanding amongst partners and is creating an offer which meets the needs of local employers and residents. This has also enabled a ‘bottom up’ approach to developing the narrative as well as a compelling business case for investment.