The endemic skills gap and low productivity across the nation have led to increasing calls from Government and industry leaders for Further Education providers to step up and ensure that they are providing the skills that employers really need. A number of solutions have been proposed, with perhaps the most obvious being the apprenticeship levy and T-Levels. But at the heart of any solution is the need for the providers of skills to offer courses that are better tailored to the needs of employers, and which will therefore produce better employment outcomes for learners.
What Ofsted Wants to See
Ofsted very much recognise this, and their Further Education and Skills Inspection Handbook, updated in April this year, places a big emphasis both on provision being well aligned to employer needs, and the other side of that coin, which is better employment outcomes for learners. As the handbook states, inspectors will consider the extent to which:
“…the range and content of the provision is aligned to local and regional priorities [and the extent to which] learners progress to relevant further learning and employment or self-employment relevant to their career plans or gain promotion at work.”
How well a provider achieves these things will play a huge part in the grade they are given. For instance, an Outstanding provider is said to be one in which:
“The range of provision offered is carefully considered and based on a thorough understanding and analysis of a wide range of information, including on local and national economic and social contexts … that prepare them [learners] well for future progression to further/higher education and/or sustained employment.”
Whereas, amongst the things that characterise a provider judged to be Inadequate, is the following:
“The provision does not equip learners with the skills, knowledge or understanding required to enable them to progress to their next steps.”
This is basically what Paul Joyce, Ofsted’s Deputy Director of Further Education and Skills, was calling for when he spoke to providers at the 2017 AoC Autumn Curriculum Conference and urged them to place a much greater emphasis on designing curricula that are “meaningful and relevant”. Of course, every provider will want to achieve such a curriculum – one that meets the needs of local employers, and which produces better employment outcomes for learners – but the challenge is in understanding how this can be done.
The Three Steps
The purpose of this short series is to take you through three key steps which, if followed, will help your organisation achieve what Ofsted is looking for:
Step 1 – We will shows you how you can review your current curriculum against regional employer demand to identify areas of current misalignment and potential opportunities for new courses.
Step 2 – We’ll demonstrate how you can dig deeper into specific courses, whether existing ones or new opportunities, to evaluate demand for associated occupations and industries.
Step 3 – Will explore how your organisation can better understand the skills component of your courses, and how you can use this to make a business case for amending existing courses or introducing new ones.
We hope that the insight and ideas we’ve set out will help you as you seek to develop a more relevant curriculum, one that gives your learners the skills they need for successful employment outcomes, and one that meets the needs of businesses in your area.
Watch out for Step 1, which we’ll be publishing next week. You can also find out more by contacting us using the button below.