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The Network was set up to provide the opportunity for LEPs to both share best practice and also to educate and inform. The last fortnight has seen this in action. The latest in our series of workshops have been on the topics of Skills and Planning where we brought together key officials and practitioners from across the Network. Both of these sessions have highlighted in very practical ways the role that LEPs can play in their local economies, and importantly the important role that Government sees for LEPs.
At a meeting hosted by HRH the Prince of Wales for LEP chairs at St James’s Palace, skills also emerged as a dominant theme, particularly in the transition from schools to employment. While it is extremely positive for LEPs to want to grasp the issue of the mismatch between what the education system is producing and the needs of business it is also, I would have to say frankly depressing. Despite the mind boggling sums of taxpayers’ money spent over the last 15 years on the education and skills agenda, we appear as a country to have made little progress other than to have invented and re-invented a host of publicly-funded bodies. I would suggest that we will continue to make limited progress until the whole panoply of the skills agenda, including its strategic direction and funding is put in the hands of employers. LEPs are central to this process.
I look forward to seeing you all at our forthcoming annual conference in London on the 26th April.