This discussion paper is a case study for how to drive growth within creative clusters through investment into skills. The project, from researchers at Work Advance, explores investment into skills in a specific local area, the Thames Estuary region.
Focusing on the Thames Estuary allowed the researchers to learn lessons from the delivery of local skills programmes which were already being customised to the needs of the economy, and, hence, to local creative employers. The research aimed to identify and share best practice, drawing lessons from what others have practically tried, as a basis for wider learning in other regions.
The TEPC Vision has been backed by the Government, through its Cultural Development Fund. As it result, TEPC can capitalise on the area’s creative assets, rich cultural and economic heritage, specialist expertise, and strong established networks.
The TEPC Vision is centred around 30 creative sites. Its goal is to increase investment and customise action locally to support the needs of local creative clusters. To do this, the TEPC Vision is bringing together multiple funding and policy tools, covering planning, innovation, business development and enterprise, and most crucially for this study, skills.
It seeks to provide a supportive local infrastructure, unlocking long-term, transformational, culture-led improvements across East London, North Kent, and South Essex. First established by the Mayor of London and the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP) and the South-East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), the TEPC project has grown to bring together the work of wider local partners, including 18 local authorities, local businesses and multiple education providers, including universities, schools, colleges and private providers.
Growth through skills
The current Government has indicated that it wants to support policy making that improves places by designing interventions that can fit the local context. Because of this, the research authors were interested in learning lessons around locally driven skills investments and initiatives.
This project research was conducted in three phases. It first sought to explore the key priorities and distinct features of the TEPC Vision, and the position of skills interventions within it, alongside a wider package of support.
It then aimed to understand the strengths and the distinctiveness of the skills offer itself within the Estuary for the Creative Industries.
Finally, it has reviewed how the local skills system has had to respond to both external changes, such as Covid-19, and more generally to ongoing policy developments.
The research concludes by outlining six priorities that policy makers should consider when designing regional skills programmes. This will help future-proof local skills systems and ensure continuous improvements and effectiveness in a modern dynamic economy.