In Step 4, we showed how with the use of good, localised Labour Market Insight (LMI), you can identify gaps where your college is currently not meeting the needs of its labour market. But having identified these gaps, the question arises, what can you actually do with this insight?
Don’t sit on the insight — act on it!
This might sound like an obvious point, but it is not uncommon for a college to conduct a Gap Analysis, only to leave the results of the report sitting on a shelf, ready to demonstrate to Ofsted that the college really is taking steps to align its courses with employer demand. But of course the whole point of going through the exercise is for the college to take the areas of misalignment or opportunities for potential new courses and to start changing things. Therefore, if you have taken the steps suggested in this series, be sure not to treat it as a merely academic exercise, but take the action required to implement the findings.
Prioritise significant misalignment and gaps
Having said that, one of the reasons colleges have for not following through on the findings is simply not knowing where to start. “Yes, the study we commissioned has revealed that we oversupply these courses, undersupply these ones, and we do not cater for these occupations. But how do we know which ones we should concentrate on trying to fix?” The answer is, where possible, to prioritise fixing the most significant areas of misalignment and gaps.
For instance, in the table featured in our previous piece, there were 259 fewer course completers in Administration than there were annual openings. It would therefore make sense to prioritise looking into the feasibility of expanding this course to meet demand, over and above areas where misalignment is not so stark. Elsewhere in that table, there were 148 annual openings in Marketing and sales in the region, yet the college offered no courses to meet this demand. Again, this could be seen as a priority area to investigate the potential for creating a new course or courses.
No college is ever going to be able to fill all the gaps identified in a Gap Analysis. But by prioritising the most significant misalignments and gaps, it is possible to develop a curriculum that is closer to meeting local demand than before.
Engage young people with your curriculum
A curriculum that is closely aligned to local jobs is a curriculum that can be confidently promoted to young people to show them a career route through the college. If your college has identified where the demand is in your local labour market, and then realigned courses with this demand, you have the ideal opportunity to shout about it to people in your region. And the beauty of it is that this can be done using the same insight that was used to identify the areas of misalignment and gaps in provision.
Imagine a college that carried out a Gap Analysis and discovered a huge demand for Sales accounts and business development managers in the area. After increasing provision in related courses, the college’s Marketing team can then use the same data in their marketing materials, their schools engagement, and on the college website to show potential students how these courses can lead them to this career (see image below).
Engage employers with your curriculum
Just as a curriculum that is closely aligned to local jobs is a curriculum that can be used in student engagement, so too is it one that can be used to improve engagement with local employers. The reason that aligning courses to the local labour market is currently a hot topic is because there is currently a skills gap where employers complain that they are just not getting people with the right skills coming through. But if your college has used good LMI to investigate local demand, has identified misalignment and gaps, and has realigned its curriculum accordingly, then you are actually better serving employers in your area and providing them with the skills they need. This provides you with the perfect opportunity to talk to them, to foster better partnerships with them, and to engage with them on issues like apprenticeships and the work placements which are set to be an integral part of the new T-Levels system.
Fulfil your mission to your students, employers and your community
In the introduction to this piece, we began by citing the Deputy Director of Ofsted, who stated their concerns that they still aren’t seeing curricula that are well aligned with the number of local jobs or careers, and that they would be looking for colleges to develop curricula that are more “meaningful and relevant”. By undertaking the steps set out in this guide, you will of course be helping to meet the requirements set out by Ofsted, but that should never be the ultimate reason for doing it.
The ultimate reason is that as a college your mission is to give your students the best opportunity to get employment using the skills they have learned; to supply employers with the skills they need; and therefore to bring great benefit and prosperity to the community you serve. By carrying out the steps we have set out in these pieces, you can go a long way towards fulfilling this mission.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you fulfil your mission by better aligning your curriculum to local demand, contact us now.