This strategic review explores how support for employer engagement in the further education (FE) and skills sector can be strengthened and improved.
Drawing on an e-survey of 108 English organisations and a focus group meeting, the report, produced by the Centre for Innovation in Learning on behalf of the LSN and its partner organisations, reflects FE and skills sector views about engaging employers in the development of a modern skills system. It also looks at innovative practice and considers how better support could be delivered.
The research found there was a contrast between the perceived opportunities for growth in ‘priority’ sectors identified in policy and the opportunities for growth in the more traditional sectors identified by providers on the ground.
Low carbon jobs, advanced manufacturing, engineering and construction, digital, media and high tech were recognised by respondents as new occupational areas with skills needs. However providers were reluctant to invest in training provision in these areas while demand is low.
The research suggests that a lack of real job opportunities in local areas means that developing training capacity is perceived as a high-risk venture. This could mean that new skill sets cannot be developed and that job opportunities in new growth areas move to other countries.
The report concludes that policy-makers need to ensure that support for investing in new skills areas and in the development of provider training capacity is considered strategically at national and regional levels. It is also important to recognise the continuing opportunities in established sectors for learner progression.
The report also argues that in times of economic austerity, policy makers also need to make strategic decisions about the priorities for, and the extent of, subsidies in key areas of workforce training.
The full report, Engaging Employers to Drive up Skills: The Realities of Effective Employer Engagement – Current Opportunities and Challenges, is available here.