To consider the report of the Director Net Zero Exeter & City Management.
RECOMMENDED that Council approve:-
(1) the Exeter Skills Strategy; and
(2) the development of the associated action plan to enable the Skills & City Inclusivity Manager to address the identified priorities.
Reason for Decision: As set out in the report.
The Executive received the report on the new Exeter Skills Strategy, which had been developed to consider the impact and changes to the labour market and economy, following the Covid Pandemic. Members were reminded that in March 2020, the original Skills Strategy had been approved, just prior to the Covid lockdown, which had impacted on the delivery of the strategy priorities and to the local labour market and workforce.
Particular reference was made on the impact of the Pandemic to the Skills Strategy, with the following key points:-
· At its peak, 30% of the city’s workforce was part of the Furlough scheme which equated to 17,000 people;
· Universal Credit claims had risen to over 4%; and
· There had regularly been over 3,000 job vacancies within five miles of the city and 9,000 vacancies within 25 miles of the city over the past year and as was still the case, as of April 2022.
In March 2021, Council approved a review of the evidence base to refresh the Skills Strategy following the impact from the Pandemic and had begun working with ‘Wavehill Social and Economic Research’ and its partners and stakeholders to develop the revised strategy. This included a review of available data on to one consultation and an event in April 2022, which brought together partners to engage on key themes and topics to bring the strategy forward.
Highlights from the evidence gathered included:-
· The number of Universal Credit claimants had reduced to under 2%, but there were a lot of complex barriers to employment;
· Older workers, aged over 50, had become economically inactive and had left the labour market, which had further impacted on employment retention;
· There were issues with recruitment across the city, despite there being a number of qualified residents available, there were noticeable skills gaps identified;
· Around 45% of the city’s employment was in three sectors - Health & Care, Retail and Education;
· The Self-employment rate for the city had dropped from 15% in 2017/18 to just 6% since the Pandemic;
· Various sectors had been impacted by new demands from the workforce, including an increased desire for more home working and hybrid working options, which remained a challenge to attract a work force – particularly for those sectors unable to offer these flexibilities; and
· Although there were identified deprived wards, the strategy covered all wards across the city, but there would be actions and focus in place for the identified wards.
Reference was made to the priorities outlined in the strategy, which had strong links to the Exeter 2040 vision, supporting the city in becoming healthy, inclusive, sustainable and delivering world class education. The priority of the strategy was focussed on inclusivity and productivity, working with a wide range of key partners across the city. Following approval, a short summary document would be produced, with a Members’ Briefing provided in September 2022 to highlight the priorities and to finalise the action plan with the skills group.
The Chief Executive & Growth Director commented on the strategic point, ... view the full minutes text for item 59