Learning Ecosystems: A new model for levelling up skills in Doncaster

Publication Details

This report seeks to explore how a place-based approach to education and skills can transform lifelong learning. This builds on the experience and practice of partners in Doncaster to establish a local ‘Talent and Innovation Ecosystem’.

Raising skill levels is a key driver behind Doncaster’s strategy to level up deep-seated inequalities in the borough, improve social mobility, address poor health outcomes, boost productive growth, and include all individuals and communities in the benefits of a more prosperous economy.

Key Recommendations

Team Doncaster should:

  • Bring a sharper focus to the needs of adult learners already in the workforce by targeting skill gaps in those sectors with growth potential.
  • Consider the demand for bespoke ‘bite-sized’ learning modules and microcredentials to be co-developed with employers and co-delivered by higher and further education.
  • Pursue a high-level growth strategy and consider how the wider functions of job brokerage, workforce development, business support and inward investment should be integrated with the TIE.
  • Identify and target larger firms in the borough, to understand their workforce development needs and provide a bespoke solution to skill gaps and on-the-job training.
  • Aim to attract an applied research institution to increase R&D activity and generate greater levels of knowledge transfer in the local economy.
  • Develop a dashboard of ‘real time’ information that can effectively assess the supply of skills training and inform decisions about future strategy and investment.

Government should:

  • Introduce a statutory right to retrain regardless of prior attainment, to support even more working adults in deprived areas to progress along the skills escalator.
  • Remove all restrictions on engaging in training for individuals receiving welfare benefits.
  • Consider both loan and maintenance support for the Lifelong Loan entitlement.
  • Enable the Lifelong Loan Entitlement to provide a single system that can bridge between modules, including microcredentials, at various levels, including post-graduate.
  • Pilot a Local Skills Account co-developed with Partners in Doncaster.
  • Pause the decision to defund BTECs indefinitely until the T Level programme is more established.
  • Enshrine a clearly defined role for local and combined authorities in LSIFs.
  • Enable a ‘big data’ approach to skills planning by allowing anonymised learner data to be freely accessed and analysed at the local level.
  • Introduce high-quality Career Development Hubs in priority areas for levelling up.
  • Introduce levy flexibilities and tax incentives in high-skilled ‘cold spots’ to address skill gaps in exportable growth sectors.
  • Retain the match funding element in future succession funds to ESF/ERDF.
  • Introduce a ‘licence to innovate’ – to develop a local Curriculum, Credentialing, and Assessment framework, working with and running parallel to national assessments.
  • Create a ‘Local Skills Development Fund’ tied to the operation of LSIPs.
  • Trial place-based budgeting, giving local leaders full flexibility and accountability for integrated spending and investment across economic and social policy, with a focus on education and skills.
  • Extend the scope of the Education Investment Areas to look at wider outcomes for lifelong learning (levels 4-6) and the ‘cradle to career’ journey.