In her comments to the AoC Conference in November 2018, Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, told her audience that their recent report had found a “mismatch between the numbers of students taking courses and their future employment in the industry”. She went on to say that the new Common Inspection Framework would need to address this, and would include a much stronger emphasis on the appropriateness and content of curriculum, so that colleges “perform that role of creating some level of match between supply and demand.”
Although her comments caused something of a stir, for Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT) they were very much in line with their existing aims of developing a curriculum that takes account of the skills that are in-demand in their region, so that they can give their learners the best chance of succeeding in their next steps. To help them achieve this aim, the College was the first in the country to turn to Emsi’s online curriculum planning tool, Course Vision.
Why have BCoT invested in Course Vision?
Course Vision combines granular Labour Market Insight with an easy-to-use interface, so that colleges can compare their provision with skills demand in their region. Specifically, the tool includes:
Curriculum Overview Report – This allows curriculum planners to compare completions data against regional job openings to highlight areas of misalignment with the local labour market.
Course Area Snapshot – Enables the college to drill into a particular course area to find out more insight on the occupations and industries in their region that are connected to it.
Business Case Report – Provides a deep dive of the skills needs of employers in the area, giving the College the insight to build a business case for developing new courses.
For BCoT, these functions are helping them to achieve a number of their goals, as Mark Hillman, the College’s Deputy Principal of Curriculum Performance and Innovation explains:
We wanted to be able to identify whether our existing curriculum was aligned to the local employment market, as well as exploring arguments for developing our HE provision. Course Vision enables us to do both, and gives us the confidence that we are maximising our learners’ opportunities to go on to relevant employment.
How is the tool being used?
Access to the tool has been granted to the College’s curriculum managers, as they are responsible for driving the development of provision and are central to the business planning cycle. Course Vision’s threefold functionality allows them not only to analyse general curriculum content against associated employer demand in the region, but also to drill down into individual courses to get more specific insight, and to make a business case report for including new courses or adding new skills components to existing courses.
However, aside from curriculum planning managers, a number of other departments are also using the tool. For instance, the Marketing team has been given access, so that they can better understand the job market for learners, and so they can then promote the College’s courses using details of related employment, such as potential salaries and number of openings. Also, the HE development team is also using the tool so that they can identify skills gaps and employment opportunities particularly around level four and level five.
Three specific use cases
One particular area that Course Vision is helping BCoT with is Business courses. These are the biggest higher education level courses in the UK, and they are often combined with other subject areas, such as Business and accounting, or Business and finance. Where Course Vision comes in is identifying the sorts of subject areas that could be combined with the Business offer. For instance, using the tool, the College identified animal management, sport, and engineering as all having good employment prospects in the region, and this then led to the idea of incorporating these subject areas into existing Business courses: Business and animal management; Business and sport; Business and engineering. The result is courses that are not only highly tailored to regional skills needs, but which also address the more general demand for people with Business skills.
Another example where the tool is making a big difference is around Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) priorities and how this relates to HE provision. Although the College understands what those LEP priorities are on a general level, Course Vision is helping them dig into those broad priorities — Digital, for instance — to find out what this means in terms of actual jobs and skills in the Digital sector in the Basingstoke area at level four and level five.
A final use case for the tool is around employer engagement, particularly in regard to apprenticeships and work placements. By using the Business Case Report, the College is able to very quickly identify which employers are putting out the most jobs in the area, which then gives them a highly targeted list of prospects for the business development and work placement teams to then go and have conversations with those local businesses about filling those roles with apprenticeships or work placements. Although this wasn’t seen as a reason for investing in the tool initially, it has proved to be a great additional benefit for the College.
As BCoT seeks to fulfil its mission, and make sure it is fully prepared for the curriculum requirements in the new Common Inspection Framework, Course Vision is now seen as an integral part of the College’s planning. As Mark comments:
Course Vision is really easy to use and has fast become a crucial part of what we are trying to achieve as a College. We’ve been thrilled with how it has helped shape our thinking around curriculum planning and more targeted employer engagement, so that we can better serve the needs of both our learners and local employers.
You can download a PDF of this case study here. If you would like to know more about how Course Vision can help your institution plan a more aligned curriculum and engage employers, get in touch.