There are two places a college can start when thinking about curriculum alignment. The first is to begin with the curriculum itself, auditing current courses to understand alignment to local employment demand. The second is to begin with the local economy itself, working out what demand looks like, seeing how the current curriculum fits, and identifying areas of misalignment and new opportunities.
Because colleges don’t have the luxury of beginning their curriculum from scratch every few years (staff, resources and facilities have been developed around the ongoing curriculum offer), the tendency is usually to start with the curriculum rather than the labour market. Whilst this supply-led approach cannot ultimately produce the kind of demand-led curriculum called for by Ofsted, it can nevertheless provide a fantastic start point. But how can this review be undertaken?
We start by taking the number of students who completed qualifications in each subject area, measuring this against the number of annual openings in related occupations. By comparing these two metrics, it is possible to map how well the college’s courses are currently aligned with the occupations to which they relate.
For example, the following chart shows anonymised data for a curriculum audit we undertook, with completions in five subject areas (blue bars) being set alongside the total number of annual openings in the related occupations (green bars):
As you can see, there are both areas of over and undersupply. For example, there are 1,404 annual openings for Accounting/Bookkeeping occupations in the region, yet the college is currently sending out just 67 people with a qualification in this field (4.8% of total annual openings). Elsewhere, there are 256 annual openings in Beauty Therapy/Hairdressing, yet the college is training 330 people each year (128.9% of annual openings).
Of course, there is more to it than this. Firstly, in every region there will be a certain number of job claimants who are seeking jobs in these occupations, and these are taken into account in our actual curriculum audits. Secondly, vacancies could be filled from within the existing workforce (other occupations) or by workers from other localities. And thirdly, the course completion data only takes account of graduates from the college being audited. There may well be other education providers who are also supplying these skills into the region, and so where there appears to be under-supply, some of it at least may be made up elsewhere.
However, even before we take these three factors into account, the chart above tells us a number of things from a ‘directional’ sense. For instance, we can see that the college in question is over-supplying in Beauty and Hairdressing, because it is currently supplying more people qualified in this field than there are currently openings. At the same time, we can also see that there is likely to be room for growth in both Accounting/Bookkeeping, and Baking/Cooking/Bartending/Catering, as in both cases the college is currently supplying less than 5% of the annual openings in the area.
In the next piece, we’ll start with the local labour market, rather than curriculum, to show how you can identify gaps in your curriculum to focus on new opportunities. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you better align your curriculum with local demand, contact us now.