How can LEPs and Local Authorities work more effectively with education providers in their region? With the devolution agenda, the Area Reviews of Post-16 Education and Training Providers, and the general desire to find solutions to the problems of low productivity and the skills gap, this question is becoming increasingly important.
One of the most important aspects of working effectively together is good communication. Quite often organisations that should be working well together don’t quite achieve this, not because of a lack of will on either side, but because of a simple lack of communication. They might have a number of priorities that overlap, but because they don’t “speak the same language”, they end up talking past each other and consequently the relationship doesn’t work as well as it perhaps should.
Data as a Common Language
One of the most helpful methods of overcoming the communication barrier is through data. When LEPs, Local Authorities and education providers all have the same insight into the skills needs of their region, the process of understanding one another is made much easier. Used rightly, data can serve as a common language connecting education providers to economic development agencies, which then greatly enhances their ability to work together to find common solutions to growth and productivity issues in their area.
Two economic development organisations in London – West London Alliance and South London Partnership – understand this concept well. Earlier this year, both organisations commissioned Emsi to produce a Skills Demand Analysis (SDA) into their local areas. The SDA is designed to help organisations better understand the dynamics of their regional labour market, focusing on industry trends, occupation trends, and possible alignment between course disciplines and the local economy’s potential skills.
Initiating a Skills Conversation
The primary reason both organisations had for commissioning the report was to help them in their preparation for their forthcoming Area Review. According to Katharine Purser, Skills Commissioning Strategic Lead at London Borough of Barnet, the report has been helpful to the West London Alliance, giving them good insight into the likely needs of local employers, and highlighting areas where local education providers can do more to meet these needs:
“We wanted to ensure we could go into our Area Review with a good understanding of the skills needs in the region. The Skills Demand Analysis has been particularly helpful in identifying the Sector Subject Areas (SSAs) that are most likely to serve the skills needs of the West London economy. This has helped us set the scene in the Review discussions with the area’s colleges.”
Looking beyond the Area Reviews, both organisations see their reports as having the potential to initiate a skills conversation with the education providers in their regions, which it is hoped will lead to a more fruitful working relationship. As Matt Maher, Policy and Programme Manager at the South London Partnership says:
“The Skills Demand Analysis produced by Emsi has given us a greater understanding of the skills priorities and needs of our region. This has been invaluable for us in our conversations with FE Colleges and employers in the Sub-Region, and will help inform our work together to ensure that South London has the right skills for growth for the future.”
In the post-Area Review environment education providers, LEPs, and Local Authorities will come under increased scrutiny as to how they are working together to tackle growth, productivity and skills issues. Ensuring that they are all “speaking the same language” will be crucial, and – as the West London Alliance and the South London Partnership have shown – good, localised data could well provide the point of integration where they can begin discussing and addressing the needs of their region.
To find out more about how our data can help LEPs and Local Authorities work more effectively with education providers, contact Martyn Gerard at email@example.com