The second guest speaker at our Northern User Group event was Melissa Conlon, Head of Enterprise at Preston’s College, who addressed the subject of Labour Market Information (LMI) and the crucial part it plays in the strategy of Preston’s College.
Melissa began by asking a couple of questions about LMI in general. What is it and what does it tell us? She answered these questions by stating that good LMI should seek to give us answers to the following questions:
- What skills are local employers are looking for?
- Which industries are hiring?
- Where is the job growth likely to be in the future?
- Which employers are likely to be recruiting in the future?
- What skills are required for a particular career?
Finding answers to these questions is good so far as it goes, but the real question is how a college can then begin to use the answers they glean to their advantage. Perhaps the most obvious way is through curriculum planning and according to Melissa the great benefit of good LMI is that it focuses the College on what it should and shouldn’t be doing in the context of the local economy:
“Sometimes with curriculum, colleges have pet subjects that they want to run: Lets’ develop this, let’s invest in that. Good LMI can tell us whether this is sustainable and whether there’s a market for it.”
One of the problems, though, is which LMI should be used? Melissa advised the audience that not all market intelligence is helpful, and it is worth asking a few questions about it before accepting what it is saying to us:
- How was the data collected?
- Where did it come from?
- Who funded it?
- Is there more recent research?
The whole LMI field can be a bit of a minefield – it is vast, and certain parts of it we might do well to avoid. To answer this problem, Preston’s College brought in EMSI’s Analyst, which Melissa described as containing, “the most comprehensive, up-to-date labour market data.” The tool is being used on a regular basis in the College, and one of the most basic benefits it brings is simply that the vast amount of data it contains within one system saves the College a huge amount of time and effort:
“My first port of call for Business Relationship Managers is to go to Analyst. It contains a unique collection of multiple datasets, which saves a lot of time looking through all the individual sources.”
But it is not just as a time-saver that its benefit is felt. As mentioned at the beginning, answering questions is one thing; putting these answers to good use is another. According to Melissa, the College finds the greatest benefit of the tool in shaping a curriculum according to the needs of the local economy:
“Analyst is helping us develop a curriculum which meets labour market needs and it is helping us to strategically plan. We have curriculum that has sat there for years and years. How do you change it? You’ve got to have the labour market intelligence in front of you before you can even begin to have a conversation about changing this part of the curriculum and making this part more diverse.”
In terms of specific use of the tool, Melissa gave the example of one of her colleagues who had come to her the previous day asking whether the College should look at the possibility of developing a course in PHP Coding. Melissa’s response was to get her colleague to go in the first instance to Analyst to find out what the relevant data is saying, before taking the idea any further.
In addition to curriculum planning, the College is also using Analyst to support the development of commercial income by helping them decide what new products they might develop for the marketplace, and the tool was also used as an integral part of a winning bid for a contract from Lancashire County Council.
It is clear that Preston’s College see clearly their role in the local economy, and that they are making great use of LMI to achieve their aims.
The final part of this three part series will be published next week. For more details about out LMI and how it can help you with curriculum planning, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.