Why are curricula across the Further Education sector generally not well aligned with the number of local jobs or careers, as Ofsted’s Deputy Director, Paul Joyce noted (see Part 1)? There are basically two reasons:
- Colleges tend to see it as their prerogative to determine which courses to offer, rather than being led by what employers want
- If a college does decide to let business shape their curriculum, they run up against the problem of determining what exactly it is that employers need
Both points are entirely understandable. Since it is colleges and not employers that actually do the teaching, it is natural for a college to view its curriculum planning as something that should be driven by them (supply-led), rather than by business (demand-led). Not only this, but the fact of the matter is that planning courses based on demand is by no means easy, since it requires at a bare minimum a good knowledge of what that demand actually is.
However, if a college is to fulfil its mission of sending students out into the community with the skills that make them employable, letting employer demand shape curriculum is not so much an option, but a necessity. Yet short of conducting endless surveys of local employers, or gathering a ton of local jobs data and then employing data experts to try to make sense of it, how exactly can this even be attempted?
The starting point should be to use good, local Labour Market Insight (LMI) to answer the following questions:
- What are the major industries in our region and how are they projected to grow?
- What are the occupations and skills needs in our region?
- What education levels make up those occupations?
Our insight is designed to be able to lift the lid on any industry, down to the 4-digit SIC level, for any region of the country, down to county and even local authority level. This means we can answer the first question by identifying a number of different metrics in a college region, including the biggest employing industries, the fastest growing industries, and projected growth over the next few years. In the table below, we have done this using the Coast to Capital LEP region, looking at the top five sectors in terms of projected job growth over the next five years:
What this does is gives us a lot of detailed information about the growth industries in the region. What it doesn’t do, however, is tell us what skills the employers in those industries need.
The way our data is modelled means that we can identify occupations in a region in one of two ways. Firstly, we can simply run an occupation report that will give us similar details to the ones we uncovered for industries, including ranking occupations by size, current growth, and projected growth. The following table shows the top five occupations in the Coast to Capital region in terms of projected job growth over the next five years:
But what we can also do is to start with industries and then identify the occupations that they employ. For example, in the first table above, you can see that the Computer consultancy activities industry is projected to grow by around 1,072 jobs (8.1%) in the Coast to Capital region between 2017 and 2022. By running a staffing pattern, we can identify which occupations are set to grow within the industry, and so begin to establish the skills demand for the sector, as the graphic below shows:
Identifying educational level
Having identified both industries and occupations, there is one final part to the jigsaw of understanding local skills demand that is crucial for any college looking to better align its curriculum with employer needs. Not all jobs in a local labour market require training at a Further Education college, and so we need to be able to identify only those occupations that are applicable.
This can be done very easily with our insight, as we have mapped all occupations to qualification levels. So once more looking at the Computer consultancy activities sector in the Coast to Capital region, we can re-run the staffing pattern to establish occupation growth, but this time selecting only those occupations at Level 3-5:
By identifying the industries, occupations and education levels in the way described above, we can understand local skills demand very quickly and very simply. In terms of curriculum alignment, however, it is only the first stage, and in the next part of this series we’ll describe the next step: Reviewing your curriculum against demand.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you better align your curriculum with local demand, contact us now.