This is the second part of a four part series (Part 1 is here) leading up to a webinar on 9th June — Preparing Your College for the Future — in which we’ll be demonstrating our new tool for colleges, FE Analyst, from which all the data in these pieces has been taken. To register for the webinar, click here.
At any time, colleges will want to ensure that their courses are adequately serving the needs of local employers, so that they can help to prosper their community, and make sure their learners are given the best opportunities to succeed in the workforce. In the extraordinary times we find ourselves in, this has become even more important, as on the one hand people are made unemployed, and on the other hand demand for certain jobs and skills is changing, and the local college finds itself as the bridge between the two to help people back into work that is in demand.
But how can a college validate its courses against demand, whether in ordinary or extraordinary times? Key to this is being able to understand the relationship between courses and demand for related jobs and skills, and in this piece we’ll show how this can be achieved.
Comparing courses to local occupation and industry demand
If we want to understand the relationship of courses to labour market demand, we first need a mechanism which connects the one to the other. We have done this by mapping all 369 Standard Occupation Classifications (SOC) to Sector Subject Areas (SSA2), which gives us the ability to look at a particular course area, and then identify a number of local employer demand metrics associated with it.
So let’s take Engineering as our subject area (for the purposes of this piece we’ll look at demand in the New Anglia LEP region). According to our mappings, there are 22 SOC occupations relating to Engineering, and when we run this for the New Anglia area, we can see that there are 29,436 jobs that relate to it.
Furthermore, the way our data is modelled means that we are able to connect occupations to industries, and so what you will notice from the image above is that as well occupation numbers, we have identified how those jobs relate to various industries in the local area. As you can see, the top industry connected with Engineering-related occupations in the area is the Maintenance and repair of motor vehicles sector with 3,680 jobs, followed by 2,343 in Engineering activities and related technical consultancy, and 1,045 in Machining. The modelled data therefore follows a path from subject area to jobs and then to industries — all of which should be helpful in a number of different functions within a college, including curriculum planning, course design and employer engagement.
Comparing courses to current employer demand
An obvious question that arises at this particular time, however, is how demand for jobs associated with Engineering might be changing. There may well have been almost 30,000 people employed in these jobs according to the last available public datasets, but as we all know, the situation is radically changing, and these employment figures are likely to shift quite considerably. How can a college get a handle on demand at such a time?
To this we can turn to our Job Posting Analytics (JPA) to get a sense of the sorts of jobs employers are currently hiring for. The chart below shows demand for jobs related to Engineering in the area since the start of the year, with Vehicle technicians, Maintenance engineers, and Mechanical engineers all showing reasonably high demand (note: the parameters can be refined to look at postings over an even shorter timeframe, if needed):
Furthermore, we can also use the data to get a sense of where in the region this demand is strongest, and again the parameters could be refined to look at a shorter time-frame or a particular occupation:
Comparing courses to skills demand
Having looked at the demand for Engineering-related jobs from an occupation, industry, and current employer demand perspective, we can begin to get an idea of what businesses in the region are looking for, and therefore how this might begin to shape curriculum and course content. However, another extremely crucial factor that needs to be taken into consideration, especially at a time when many people are going to find themselves out of work and in need of retraining to get back into the workforce, is that of skills.
In our piece back here, we introduced the concept of the Language of Skills, and in particular the Open Skills Library we have built, which is refreshed every fortnight and which currently contains somewhere in the region of 33,000 skills terms. These skills terms have been tagged to our JPA data, which means that we are able to extract from employer job postings the skills that are currently being sought after by businesses. As with the occupation data, this is all connected back to subject areas, which means that we can identify in-demand skills related to courses.
For example, the image below shows the Top 20 hard skills for Engineering-related job postings in the New Anglia area since January this year (the numbers after the bars refer to the number of times the skill appeared in all postings):
By using this sort of data, course design teams in particular can understand much better which skills employers are looking for, which they can then use to factor into courses, perhaps as modules to existing courses or in the development of new courses. For colleges that really want to become local leaders in this time of disruption, insights such as these could be a key factor, since they provide a foundation for bridging the gap between people and employment, with the college acting as the training hub between individuals needing to upskill to get back into the workforce, and businesses needing people with certain skills in order to get back into growth.
There is much more to be said about employer demand for jobs and skills, and we’ll be looking at that in more detail in the next piece.
Join our webinar on 9th June and find out how our new tool, FE Analyst, can help your college prepare for the future.