Agenda item

Exeter Skills Strategy

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, where Members had agreed to the vision of the city as an inclusive, healthy and sustainable city, providing many opportunities for its residents. The report highlighted how the city delivered on inclusive growth, which the skills agenda connected with younger residents to provide them with opportunities and the building of relationships with educational providers. The Civic University Agreement work had brought education providers together to help residents enter the work place. Members noted that, although the Council had no statutory responsibility to undertake the work, it had moved from economic development to inclusive growth, which included building a skills agenda.


During the discussion, Members welcomed and commended the strategy and team for the excellent work that been undertaken to identify the impacts of the pandemic on the city work place, and developing a wide ranging evidence base. The Skills Strategy was crucial in supporting residents and bringing new businesses to the city, which would enable residents to also work in the city, rather than travel elsewhere. The Strategy identified the need for developing green skills to support climate change, which combined with the Council’s objectives for Net Zero.


The Council Leader, in summarising, noted the importance of the report, highlighting that, although it wasn’t a statutory function, the Council was choosing to invest in providing skills for all residents for the benefit of the city’s future.


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.


Supporting documents: