In the first part of this mini-series looking at how the FE sector might react to the recent General Election, we looked at the issue of funding. Our main point was that by quantifying the value they give to their local community, through an Economic Impact Study, Colleges can position themselves for both funding and influence with the LEPs and Local Authorities.
A second issue that came out clearly in the comments of sector leaders in FE Week, was that of apprenticeships. Here are comments from three leaders addressing this issue:
“The Conservative Party manifesto promises to increase the number of apprenticeships, but we must recognise that quality is as important as quantity.”
Martin Doel, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges
“The Conservative commitment to both apprenticeships and UTCs was made clear during the campaign, and our focus will be on making sure that these initiatives form part of a more coherent whole education system.”
Lynne Sedgemore, Executive Director, 157 Group
“We also welcome the fact that government wishes to grow high quality apprenticeships and that these should be available across all levels and all ages.”
Stewart Segal, Chief Executive, Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP)
All three comments are a recognition of the Conservative Party’s pledge to “deliver three million more [apprenticeships] and ensure they deliver the skills employers need” over the next five years.
However, if the issue isn’t to become just another matter of sheer quantity over quality, as Martin Doel suggests it might, then what is needed is a targeted approach to apprenticeships, with Colleges working smarter to:
- Identify skills needs in their local and regional economy
- Engage with the employers who have those needs
- Respond by introducing or increasing their apprenticeship offer in those areas
We are not convinced that this is currently happening. This is not intended to be a criticism; rather it is simply a recognition of the realities on the ground which make taking this systematic approach difficult. As we wrote back here:
The problem really boils down to this: Without access to good information about industries and occupations in the labour market in which they operate, how can colleges know which employers to target and approach to engage in discussions about apprenticeships?
This is where good Labour Market Information (LMI) can prove invaluable. By using local LMI, all the way down to the most granular levels of industry and occupation, and all the way down to the most specific geographic levels, Colleges have the means to identify:
- The needs of key industries
- The skills gaps that exist within those industries
- The areas that they ought to be concentrating on implementing or increasing their apprenticeship provision
In addition to this, LMI can connect to business data, so that Colleges can find out not only which industries have particular skills needs, but also who the employers are in these sectors in your area. Thus using LMI in conjunction with business data — as our Analyst tool offers — Colleges can move through the whole process of identifying local needs to engaging with actual employers. For a fuller description of how this can be achieved, please read our pieces for Apprenticeship week (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5).
The Conservative Party manifesto pledged to “replace lower-level, classroom-based Further Education” with apprenticeships. Post-election, it is therefore clear where the money is going to be for Colleges over the next five years. The successful college, in terms of securing funding, will therefore be the one that can convince the funding bodies that their apprenticeship provision is needed, and is necessary to fuel growth in the local economy. LMI, with its ability to pinpoint these local needs, and connect to local employers, may very well be key to their success.
For more details about how our data can help your college improve its apprenticeship provision, contact Anthony Horne at firstname.lastname@example.org