City Deals and Employer led Skills – 6 key elements for progress

Strategy-Development2-290x220Earlier this month, UKCES and Centre for Cities produced City Deals and Skills: How have City and Local Growth Deals supported the development of employment and skills policies that reflect local demand? The report looks at how the cities developed a demand led approach to skills to support business growth. All LEPs are looking at how they can contribute to the skills system and ally growth hubs with employer led skills. Does this report give LEPs outside the major conurbations some useful lessons?

It is an accessible report and one that we should all consider. The 6 key elements seen as critical in the report are set out below:

  1. Partnership arrangements – To facilitate employers working with providers, we need to establish partnerships that work. This involves employers and skills providers working together. The experience of the last 5 years suggests that by meeting regularly, knowledge sharing and collaboration has developed. Stoke and Staffordshire reported that FE Colleges in the city now use a red-amber-green skills framework to set priorities in relation to local business demand.
  2. Employer engagement – this has worked at strategic and operational level; at partnership and co-designing courses at local level. This has included with employers directly as in the West of England and with representative bodies, as in Southampton. Leeds City Region has developed the Five Three One brokerage system which brokers skills support for any business in the city and is estimated to have added £7M to the economy.
  3. Intelligence – a robust and up to date evidence base is crucial to a demand led system. In Stoke and Staffordshire, an Education Trust has been formed to undertake research, keep it up to date and align research with employer priorities. The Trust comprises schools, FE, HE, Councils and employers.
  4. Shared objectives – this is about setting out strategic priorities and goals. This uses the evidence base to help set priorities. Leicester undertook a survey of over 1000 employers and held events to involve businesses in setting those local skills priorities.
  5. Alignment – this is often a long term achievement for a long standing partnership and it is early days in many locations but the examples above show progress and alignment. In Sheffield and Manchester where budgets have been devolved then there is greater alignment of local and national bodies around the core principles of a demand led system. Funding has played a central role in the extent of alignment achieved.
  6. Performance management and evaluation – all participants need to understand their strengths, weaknesses and progress. Evaluation systems have been in place at national and local level and have allowed the impact to be seen.

For LEPs and growth hubs with less funding and resource, we need to reflect on these core learning points and think how best to we use LEP resource to impact on growth. We should consider if that could be achieved by reinvigorating skills and employment boards and implementing these 6 elements to ally skills provision with employers needs? How can we use this report to best effect?