Cornwall is known for its stunning coastline, its famous pasties and surfer culture. But it isn't all pies and parties. Cornwall is also struggling from long-term unemployment, crumbling infrastructure and an economy that is becoming increasingly dependent on tourism.
I spent a few days in Cornwall this week and found a quiet revolution happening to overcome some of these challenges. I've written and spoken a lot about the importance of employers and educators working together to help bridge the gap between education and employment. This is exactly what is happening in Cornwall.
The Cornwall College Group is actively engaging with businesses across the area and working with them to create innovative approaches to delivering the skills they desperately need. Local employers and the colleges are also working closely with secondary schools and critically, their Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). This is creating a rich exchange of views and ideas and energy around what they can achieve together. The LEP and the Cornwall College Group have also aligned around their strategic aims based on input from local employers and the community as well.
Take the example of Samworth Brothers, one of the largest employers in the area. Samworth Brothers owns several food brands, including Ginsters and my favourite malt loaf, Soreen. As technology is increasingly improving efficiency, output and scale in their manufacturing processes and their business grows, the sorts of skills they need are changing. The range of jobs at Samworth is astounding - but the challenge is getting people inspired about becoming food packaging technologists or process engineers.
The company has a commitment to locally-sourced ingredients - which means they are also reliant on a highly-skilled supply chain of farmers, butchers, dairies, etc. who can meet their volume demands and their customers' requirements.
Samworth Brothers is working closely with the Cornwall College Group on a number of programmes - from bringing young people into Samworth companies to open their eyes to the possibilities to supporting a number of initiatives at the Cornwall College Group to develop skills of the local community.
This helps Samworth Brothers recruit and retain the skilled, passionate people it needs. It helps the college inspire and motivate its students to learn skills that lead to jobs. And, it helps the local community improve its economy.