The Innovation South Virtual Campus (ISVC) is a ground-breaking collaboration between the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (EM3 LEP) and a group of regional colleges and universities, which aims to transform access to vital work-focused training in the region. With involvement from Sparsholt College, Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT), Royal Holloway University of London, East Surrey College and Chichester University, the innovative project delivers courses to employees across a number of different sectors in the area, via an online platform which is free for local employers to use.
An evidence-based approach to creating new courses
At the beginning of 2021, the ISVC launched a number of short courses aimed at helping local employers fill digital skills gaps they are seeing in their workforce. The courses focus on highly sought-after digital skills, but the question of which skills are being sought-after was one where the ISVC decided they needed to take a strong evidence-based approach, rather than relying on stories of skills gaps in the press, employer forums or anecdotal evidence. To accomplish this, they used Emsi’s Labour Market Insight to identify in-demand digital skills in the area, and this was then used to develop a compelling case for funding from the LEP to invest in the creation of courses related to this demand, and so help fill the skills gaps local businesses are seeing.
By using the data, the ISVC was able to identify a number of skills which employers in the area are looking for, including digital marketing, software programming (Python, C ++, Java), project management, website development, databases, cybersecurity, competitive analysis, and business skills. This then enabled them to create course titles, such as Digital Marketing, Cyber Security, and Web Development, with the colleges and universities then pitching for the opportunity to write the course content.
According to the ISVC’s Project Manager, Martin Simmons, the data proved invaluable in creating these courses:
“Emsi’s comprehensive employer research has yielded a rich mine of data on the skills landscape in the EM3 Region. The data has been used to broker the points of connection between what EM3 employers say they need and what the ISVC has made available to local employees.”
How have local employers reacted?
Since the creation of the courses, the number of local employers making use of them for their employees has grown considerably, such that by the beginning of May over 200 courses had been accessed, including over 40 for Digital Marketing and Social Media. The fact that the platform is all about skills, rather than qualifications, is a big factor in their success, and reports coming in from local employers suggest that the courses are not only being viewed very favourably, but are leading to further collaboration between employers and the education institutions. For example, ASK Technology Ltd has been collaborating with BCoT to create a virtual learning platform within the ISVC, specifically to address an area of opportunity within the electronics industry. The result is an IPC Circuit Boards course, with the firm’s Commercial Manager, Paul Gavin commenting:
“This will open up employment opportunities for both electronics companies looking to hire and individuals looking for employment within electronics. It will encourage further learning and progression within a dynamic and increasingly exciting, fast-moving industry.”
The ISVC’s courses are set for review at the start of 2022, when the LEP will be looking for evidence that they have been effective and are really helping the local business community to fill skills gaps. Assuming this is the case, it is likely that the content will then be bolstered to include links to other free learning, and that the ISVC will look to include new modules, once again using granular local insight to establish a strong evidence-base identifying in-demand skills in the area. The need for decisions to be underpinned by robust data was emphasised by Barney Ely, Board Director of EM3 LEP and Chair of EM3 Skills Advisory Panel, who said:
“The EM3 LEP’s strategic leadership has strong analytical evidence and data at its foundation. The insights Emsi offered into the skills needed by employers in the area were critical to the LEP’s decision to help develop and invest in the Innovation South Virtual Campus. The Campus is a classic example of the LEP’ commitment to acting on the evidence to deliver results.”
Looking even further into the future, the ISVC may eventually move to a more commercial footing, which could create the potential for new partnerships with other LEPs and education institutions around the country, where these sorts of skills-based training courses are also much needed. As with the original courses, for any future training to successfully fill the skills gaps in an area, they too will need robust local skills data to identify what it is employers are looking for.
Get in touch to find out how Emsi’s data can help your organisation identify skills needs in your area.