Meeting the skills needs of the largest Fintech/Cyberhub Outside North America?

The consultation document on the Local Skills Improvement Plan for London is here  BusinessLDN launches open consultation on London LSIP findings & recommendations 

It is a strange document in that is has no reference to the needs of the Financial Services Industry, London’s largest employment sector. It equally has no reference to other than basic digital skills, but Information and Communications (including the digital industries) are London’s fourth largest sector.

It is, however, only a first draft. Although the deadline for comment is tomorrow, the plans do not have to be submitted to the Secretary of State until the end May.

Below is my response – it follows the structure of the consultation document on which comments are sought rather than actual questions asked.

I wonder what the other comments are but it is unclear how many employers, trade associations, professional bodies or private sector training providers were involved in the production of the draft plan.  Few appear to be represented in the list of those involved with driving the exercise.

I have not yet had time to look at how the “designated employer representation bodies” driving the other local plans are progressing.

If YOU are serious about improving the way UK public sector training providers use your taxes to help meet your needs you have a month left to get involved. 

Response to Local Skills Improvement Plan for London

From Philip Virgo [email protected]

I have been involved with computer, communications and digital skills plans since the mid-1970s when I produced the manpower plan for the only one of the Labour Government Industrial Strategy exercises to achieve its objectives. It was also the only one to have a manpower plan at its heart.

I am currently Convenor of the Advisory Board for the London Cyber Resilience Centre and also have various national advisory roles with regard to skills policy.


Financial and Professional Services is the largest employment sector in London but there is no plan to meet their needs. Is this being left to Central London Forward to produce?

Information and Communications is the fourth largest employment sector in London but there is almost no reference to the provision of more than basic digital skills.

London has the largest cyber/fintech and on-line (including social media, payment and transaction services) development clusters outside North America. Their needs with regard to AI, Analytics, Cyber and applications development skills do not feature.  Nor do those of their London customers to make effective use of their products and services.

There are serious issues with regard to the supply of high-level digital skills. London has, for example a shortfall (DCMS data) of at least 15,000 full time cyber security technicians and professionals. That shortfall is growing year on year because the supply pipeline is barely half what is needed to compensate for wastage and growth in demand.

The shortages are global, not just intra-UK. Meeting demand will require large scale cross-training for the existing workforce and greatly improved process for drawing in and supporting mature entrants, including returners. Improving the pipelines for school-leavers is essential but will not produce results in time to prevent serious problems over the next few years.

The references in the plan to basic/essential digital skills do not appear to cover the basic cyber security skills needed by those in sole charge of digital systems in over 250,000 SMEs and micros businesses in the London area. (DCMS studies refer).  The definitions of such skills also need updating as SMEs and micro-businesses increasingly run their businesses from a smart phone instead of a laptop or PC accessing cloud-based systems.

Comments on recommendations:

Meeting London’s Skills Needs
  • Leadership and Management: There is a need for action plans to “train the trainers” but these should begin by identifying, replicating and expanding existing good practice in the private sector and/or armed forces where practical. Thus front-line supervisors are trained to do needs analysis as part of performance reviews and to supervise blended learning, using micro-modules downloaded from libraries of on-line materials. A focus on expanding faculties to deliver off-the-job courses, as opposed to providing professional back-up to employers too small to plan and supervise in house training programmes, will fail.
  • Essential digital skills: these are evolving with the transition of many, perhaps most, SMEs to cloud-based systems accessed via mobile phones and/or tablets and the use of gamified on-line modules to help motivate and educate learners of almost all skills. Programmes for all ages, including for those excluded from mainstream education need to be better linked to rapidly evolving technical and professional digital and hybrid career pipelines. That entails a much stronger focus on engaging employers who are looking to diversity their recruitment sources and/or recruit locally to improve retention. The engagement should include volunteering and mentoring roles which enable them to pre-recruit those unlikely to perform well at interview.
  • Co-design for evolving needs; there is particular need for processes which help training providers better engage with those developing new products and services which will require new skills. These should include via co-operative groups hosted on College and University campuses, which support suppliers and users too small to have in-house needs analysis capabilities.
Supporting and Galvanising Business Action
  • Employer attractiveness: this will be much easier if LSIP programmes are linked locally to the recruitment plans of employers, in partnership with recruitment and staffing agencies and business improvement districts. There is also a need to help employers, trade associations and professional bodies produce case studies that are attractive to the audiences they seek to recruit.
  • SME support: advice and guidance to help employers of all sizes, not just SMEs, navigate the skills system is essential. While the GLA should indeed lead on this it needs to be a co-operative process, supported by both Central Government and the London Boroughs.
  • Recruitment: this should be linked to, and build on, the work of the Better Hiring Institute, including its sector groups, to improve recruitment processes at all levels and across all sectors.
Delivering a Skills System that is Fit for Purpose
  • Employer-Provider Partnerships: The LSIP process should be used to support shared training needs analysis and delivery across public and private sector skills providers. Given the shortage of skills to do needs analysis and content development, priority should be given to improving access to existing libraries of re-usable skills micro-modules so that scarce resources can be focussed on developing new modules to gaps in provision as these are identified.
  • Mapping the landscape: this will be less difficult if the process begins by looking at existing “maps” and their strengths and weaknesses. The maintenance of “maps”, as programmes come and go, is as important as processes to take account of feedback on quality, relevance, geographic cover (taking account of travel to work/study routes) and pastoral support..
  • Apprenticeships: helping London’s employers to input their needs to the standards systems is, of course important, but the immediate priority should be to help London’s employers and careers advisors understand and use the Apprenticeship clearing house features of UCAS. There is also a critical need to provide more support for SMEs with regard to the work-place supervision and pastoral care that are commonly said to be their biggest barrier to taking on apprentices.
  • Functional Skills: Other groups are looking nationally at curriculum change. The LISP should be focussed on working with and through London Grid for Learning, London’s STEM hubs and groups like BCS CAS , IET LEGOLeague , Greenpower and Maths4Girls/Founders4Schools to support programmes to provide functional skills within the existing curriculum. Waiting for agreement on change to the National Curriculum is unproductive.
  • Modular training: The frameworks for accrediting and recording micro-modules being developed by OCN London (London’s own UKAS accreditation body) with its FE and Employer partners, (beginning with health, wellbeing and safeguarding micromodule accreditations) provide a ideal mechanism  for implementing this recommendation.
  • Skills Academies Hubs: these need to be better linked to the STEM hubs in one direction and to Employer skills networks, including those of the trade associations and professional bodies in the other. They also need to provide pastoral care services to support apprentices and other trainees in employers too small to have these in-house. They should also be look at hosting “train the trainer” programmes for the sectors and geographic areas they serve.
  • Careers Advice: there is a need to look at supporting fully funded extensions to the work of the Careers and Enterprise Company to provide advice to those outside mainstream education in the 16 -30 year old age groups, including both NEETs and Graduates, perhaps in co-operation with the graduate employment services of London’s Universities.
Building an inclusive London Workforce
  • Employment Support: processes for cross-referencing between services, so that there is no wrong “first point of contact”, should be the first step in what will not be an easy journey. For this to work, all agencies should support the creation of shared “Maps” covering who does what, how services fit together and how support programmes/funding can be combined (or not). In parallel, joined up guidance to the target audiences, in language they can understand, needs to be reviewed and tested on groups that are representative of the target audiences.
  • Black and minoritized communities: there is a need to actively support trusted (by the targeted communities) programmes with faith and cultural groups, including those (e.g. sewing circles) which reach those excluded from outside contact by their family/community patriarchs. The support should include introducing well-respected employerswiht community outreach programmes to those working on health, wellbeing and safeguarding, not “just” skills and jobs.
  • Community learning: the provision of local, out-of-hours, safe study/learning spaces (e.g. local schools, community centres, faith and business premises) is crucial. Exercises to identity and support these should be joined up with those seeking similar venues for health and wellbeing programmes bearing in mind that the ambience is not the same as for youth and sports groups.
  • Digital poverty: there is need to enable the many fragmented programmes to better co-operate, including in the cleansing and recycling of donated equipment to robust (data protection, cyber security etc.) standards, including from the equipment update programmes of the London boroughs. There should also be an attempt to get the mobile phone operators to exempt traffic with London’s on-line education services (e.g. those accessed via London Grid for Learning) from data charges. There is also a need to look at how to help those who do well enough to get places on programmes leaving to higher level skills to also acquire the credentials (including a fixed address) to pass vetting processes for jobs in the public sector and/or regulated industries.
  • Transport poverty: there is a need to map TfL services onto current travel to work/study routes, e.g. by using heat maps of mobile phone traffic as done in other UK (and overseas) cities.
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