The part that colleges play in the economy is not always recognised by the community in which they operate. Colleges are seen as teaching and training centres, but not necessarily as economic contributors. Over the past few years, our Economic Impact Studies (EIS) have done much to dispel this view, time and time again showing that colleges are an integral — even essential — part of local and regional economies.
The latest example of this is the study commissioned by the Sheffield City Region Colleges — a group of ten colleges across South Yorkshire. If anyone had any doubts that colleges are of great benefit to local and regional economies, the results of this study ought to settle the matter. According to our report, the ten colleges between them make the following contribution:
- Their total economic contribution to the Sheffield City Region is £1.8billion
- Total added income created by the ten colleges is approximately equal to 2.5% of the total economic output of the Sheffield City Region
- This total added income represents 76,472 average wage jobs throughout the region
According to Colin Booth, chair of the Principals’ Group for Sheffield City Region Colleges, “Broadening experience, developing skills, and putting people on the path to success are our widely accepted goals. However, our remit consists of much more than solely influencing the lives of learners. We also have a responsibility to contribute to the regional economy, not least in creating more and better jobs for around 1.8 million residents. Until now, there has been little research to quantify any monetary value of our work to the region. We now know that it is hugely significant.” This significance has been recognised by local media, with the Sheffield Star reporting that “South Yorkshire colleges are driving recovery”.
To mark the release of the study, Sheffield City Regional College Group held two events last week to discuss and disseminate the significance of the findings. Both events were a huge success, being well attended and attracting a diverse group of local key partners and stakeholders including:
- Major local employers
- Funding bodies (SFA and EFA)
- Sheffield Hallam University
- The Local Enterprise Partnership
- Chamber of Commerce
- MP representation
- Association of Colleges (AoC)
In both events, hosted by The Sheffield College and Dearne Valley College, EMSI’s Anthony Horne took the group through the headline findings of the study, and this was then followed by a lively discussion around a number of key issues. One of the great things about our Impact Studies is that they never fail to start a conversation, and they always seem to raise a host of questions that people had perhaps not considered before. In both Sheffield City Region events, much of the talk centred around how the EIS could help the colleges and key stakeholders understand and answer the following five questions:
1. How can colleges work in partnership with the Local Enterprise Partnership to identify suitable skills investment opportunities and to positively engage with economic development planning?
2. By helping employers, colleges and individuals to understand the returns on investment gained from training, can we reduce the investment risk for employers when they employ staff?
3. How can the EIS findings be used to encourage more investment support from local industry?
4. How can we differentiate the discussion between colleges and local stakeholders (for example funding bodies, employers, parents, students), depending on the desired end point?
5. In what ways can the EIS be used to support local funding of skills, by evidencing the clear economic impact of investment in education?
These two events were the first steps taken by the group to launch their EIS to local partners and to ensure that the message of the study is heard and understood as widely as possible. It is a message that needs to be heard. According to Nigel Brewster, Analyst and member of the Chamber of Commerce, “Education is integral to the economic transformation of the region”. The EIS has unquestionably proved this to be true, and as Colin Booth says, “We have confirmed what we always felt — investing in education is a win-win situation for the region. An investment in our colleges is an investment in our collective future”.
The Sheffield City Region College Group remains committed to meeting the needs of the local economy by providing high levels of training and skills to local individuals and businesses, and the EIS has helped them to achieve this. According to Anthony Horne, “The EIS clearly quantifies the economic benefits and returns for investment in education. As a wider part of EMSI’s work in supporting the economic development of regions, it is fantastic that the Sheffield City Region Colleges are being so proactive in engaging with the wider economic community by disseminating the results of their group impact study. We remain committed to working in partnership with all of the group colleges as this continues to develop, and are pleased to be playing such a key role in ensuring local decisions around skills are best informed by local labour market intelligence”.
For more information on our Economic Impact Studies, or any other of our tools, please contact Andy Durman (firstname.lastname@example.org).