Our voice of business this month is: Professor Gavin Brooks, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University, and Chair of Bucks LEP Skills Advisory Panel.

As we approach the festive period, this is an opportunity for me to reflect on a unique period of great uncertainty for us all and to acknowledge the continued hard work, innovation, and adaptability being shown in our local community.

Regrettably, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause disruption to our livelihoods, especially in local employment and business, but I am heartened and encouraged by the Skills Hub work being coordinated by the Skills Advisory Panel.

We have made rapid progress in recent months, particularly on the Redundancy Taskforce, which was established to consider which actions were needed to support employers who are making staff redundant and/or for those individuals already made redundant due to the current crisis.

I am pleased and proud to share that Buckinghamshire New University has launched new accelerated first year degree programmes in its Business, Law and Computing school, whilst also offering compressed foundation year courses across the University’s academic portfolio that provide a pathway to a variety of degree programmes in Autumn 2021. A Master’s in Aviation Security also has been launched to upskill pilots who are currently unemployed. All of these courses are available to start in January 2021.

The new courses, supported by Student Finance England, are a small step to widening access to our degrees for people in a range of situations, including those who have been made redundant and whose circumstances have changed because of the pandemic. International students and others who prefer not to wait until September to enter higher education will also benefit.

Our University already has strong links with local businesses and the accelerated degrees will help our graduates to secure employment in Buckinghamshire quicker. Recent data from the Guardian University Guide 2020 found that the South East is the second most popular region for our University’s graduates to enter graduate-level employment (professional, managerial and technical occupations).

On that positive note, I wish you a peaceful and healthy festive period and a Happy New Year.