Originating in the 2017 Conservative Party Manifesto, Skills Advisory Panels (SAPs) were billed as a means of tackling local skills shortages by ensuring that skills supply would be better matched to the needs of employers. The then Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, fleshed out what this meant in a speech at Battersea Power Station in December 2018, and in addition promised:
“new support for every local area to fully understand and assess their skills needs now and, in the future… Each Panel will get £75,000 to analyse their local skills needs.”
The Department for Education has led on the policy initiative, providing guidance and funding for each Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) to establish a SAP to drive local change in the skills system. This includes responsibility for:
Assessing skill supply and demand data.
Providing a common evidence base for education providers, employers, local authorities and other stakeholders to progress skill priorities forward locally.
Delivering priorities through influencing a more efficient allocation of resources.
These are of course not new challenges, nor are they easy to solve. Yet the policy, initiative and funding show that the Government clearly sees the mismatch between skills taught and skills needed as a huge problem and is serious about wanting to tackle it. What the SAP initiative does is to put LEPs and MCA’s front and centre in the role of addressing these problems, but it still leaves them with a very big question: how can they better understand employer demand and skills supply across their local area?
Through our work with over a third of LEPs, we have been able to provide solutions to help them not only identify their local skills needs, but also to understand how current provision is meeting, or failing to meet this demand. We do this in the following three stages:
Firstly, using our granular Labour Market Insight and analysis of local skills requirements through our Job Posting Analytics, we can form a detailed view of what it is that local employers are looking for.
Secondly, by drawing upon the ESFA Data Cube (FE outcomes data), together with Emsi HESA Data (HE outcomes), we can get a thorough understanding of local skills supply.
Thirdly, this means that we can then identify any misalignments and gaps in the provision of skills when compared to demand.
This then provides a strong evidence base which can be shared with partners to make informed decisions regarding future skills supply at a local level.
Our work with South East LEP provides a strong case study on how they used our Analyst tool to support growth and provide an evidence base to inform their skills strategy. We are also working with a number of LEPs on consulting projects to help them answer particular questions they are facing around the skills challenge in their area.
The Skills Advisory Panels and the availability of funds to analyse local skills needs, provide a great opportunity to address the perennial challenge of matching skills supply and employer demand through developing localised responses that have the potential to positively address economic growth and productivity. As we approach the anniversary of Damian Hinds announcement, our LEP and MCA customers are in a position to demonstrate that they are leading on this agenda, and that they are able to have meaningful discussions with the Department for Education (DfE) regarding the future sustainability of their local SAP.
Is your LEP in a similar position to show the DfE how you are aligning skills provision with employer demand and local priorities in your area? If not, why not talk to us about how we can help.
If you’d like to find out how we can carry out an analysis of your area to help you understand its skills needs, contact us now.