Agenda item

Agenda item


Report of Head of Regeneration and Development


A report was received from the Head of Regeneration and Development.  Skillmakers was a business and community led initiative intended to bring businesses and education closer together, to support future economic sustainability and improve employment opportunities for local people.   There was an investment required of £115,000 to support year 1 staffing.  This would be covered by a loan from Herts Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for 80% of the funding.  The remaining 20% would be funded by a 50/50 loan between West Herts College (WHC) and Watford Borough Council (WBC.)  The Council would offer a loan of £11,500 from 1 April 2016 repayable at the end of Year 3 2018/19 with interest applied.


Councillor Sharpe introduced the report.  Skillmakers came from an initiative by West Herts College supported with LEP funding in order to improve skills and help Watford to have a skilled workforce.  Contained within the recommendations of the report was the offer from the Council of a £11,500 loan to start the project.   Cabinet had previously considered the Council’s own economic development strategy and it was good that the Council’s partners were also thinking about this.


The Mayor commented that Watford had low unemployment.  This initiative was about increasing skills within the town so that local people could have local jobs.


The Economic Development Officer continued that there were gaps which meant that it was hard for businesses to get the right skills.  Skillmakers was led by businesses to see what could be done locally to enable existing businesses to access the skills they needed and make sure local people could access what they need.  It was about looking at the whole workforce and enabling them to have better employment opportunities.


The Mayor commented that it would mean that residents would not have to move away in order to get better jobs.  She gave the example of Freedom Communications where, due to the fast paced nature of the technology industry, the company looked for certain aptitudes within their employees which meant their staff would be able to adapt as the industry changed.


Following a question from the Mayor about apprentices, the Economic Development Officer explained that Skillmakers would connect businesses with provision.  There was an apprenticeship programme which gave access to training and workplace schemes.  There was also in-work development and pre-employment training.  Apprenticeships were one element of the spectrum of opportunities on offer.


In response to a question from Councillor Scudder the Economic Development Officer commented that there had been a piece of work carried out which had identified gaps in skilled plasterers and specialist construction.  Skillmakers would connect employers with the right schemes in order to get provision for the future.  The scheme was about helping businesses to talk to providers and build a pipeline of workforce.


The Mayor was pleased that the LEP was going to be the main funder.  It was noted that the LEP had invested heavily in Watford and she congratulated officers on successfully pitching for funding.


It was noted that there was an error on page 15 of the report and that the cost of permanent staffing in year 3 should still say £115k not £90k.




That Cabinet:

1.      agrees to the Council being a board member of Skillmakers and that the Managing Director be the Council’s nominated representative.

2.      agrees that the Council offers the company a £11,500 loan to be repaid by the end of 3 years on similar commercial terms to that of the LEP loan to go towards the start up costs of Skillmakers.


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