Malcolm Skingle, Director, GSK, Chair of the SIP Board and PraxisUnico Board member reflects on a successful first year for the Science Industry Partnership (SIP)
When the Government’s Employer Ownership of Skills Fund (EOP) offered all employers in England direct access to public investment for training, science industry employers were swift to seize the opportunity.
Our subsequent successful EOP bid resulted in a £52 million investment in science talent, with the aim of creating more than 7,800 education and skills opportunities over a two year period.
The bid has allowed us to fully establish the Science Industry Partnership (SIP), still at this stage a pilot initiative, taking responsibility for skills across the sector – but one which has ambitious aims beyond our trial period.
During its first year the SIP has:
• Established an Employer Partnership for the Science Industries, taking direct responsibility for sectoral ambition on skills
• Welcomed co-investment with Government to transform the way the system works for employers and boost
• Designed and implemented innovative pilot skills programmes to drive increased productivity, business growth and job opportunities
• Shaped the Skills Landscape with new Trailblazer Apprenticeship Standards, a more flexible approach to Apprenticeships and a SIP Endorsed Training Provider Network
• Provided a simple interface for skills and training which has seen over 260 employers engaged
• Trained 2113 individuals through employer-designed learning programmes, from tailor-made Apprenticeships through to Higher Education schemes
The SIP has been led from day one by a strong board – 24 committed employers from across the science sector who have now met nine times, driving the SIP strategy and informing the skills programme development.
There are now over 160 companies accessing SIP programmes, a number that is continuing to grow. They are finding solutions to their skills challenges and driving their business performance through the capability of their people.
The SIP is also about shaping the skills landscape. This sees employers setting standards for apprentices and occupations and ensuring delivery is against these same standards. We have also embarked upon the development of a SIP Skills Strategy that will set out a skills plan for the future based on the sector drivers and skills needs.
The Workforce Development Programme, for example, is a co-investment between employers training for existing staff; with two tailored programmes: one for SMEs, “Skills for Growth”, and one aimed at technicians, Gold Standard Operators and Technicians. Employers can access up to 50% match funding support to increase the technical competence or functional capability of their staff. The programme has been over-subscribed in Year 1 with 1,652 starts (against a target of 1,390). Skills for Growth includes the development of commercialisation and intellectual property skills, as well as leadership, design for manufacture, lab practice, market analysis and other vital subjects.
We recognise that the SIP is a pilot project and performance is obviously shaped by employer demand. From the employer perspective this has been a very successful first year, establishing new approaches which put employers in charge. Year 2 will be about stepping up delivery, the number of companies involved and learners benefiting. We are already seeing significant value for employers through this approach. More companies in the sector are getting involved with Apprenticeship and workforce development initiatives, providing the skilled workforce the sector needs.
The challenge now is for real employer-led partnerships to take a more formal role in skills beyond a pilot project; the next 12 months will require employers and government to commit to the continuation of the SIP as a co-investment model, ensuring high quality and relevant education provision, leading to valuable jobs, high productivity and a world-class science industry workforce.
Read the Science Industry Partnership Year One Summary Report here.