Long term vision for local economies should drive learning and skills decisions

10 June 2013

Responding to today’s report from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Local Growth, LEPs and Enterprise Zones’ Skills Inquiry, David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“There is much to support in this report, Skills and employment in the age of local growth deals. Firstly we believe that there needs to be closer alignment of employment and skills at a local level. This corresponds with one of several recommendations we have made ahead of this month’s Spending Review. We also agree that long-term stability in the system is crucial if we are to meet challenges on local growth and skills. The report’s request for cross-party manifesto commitment to LEPs would ensure they have a long-term role in shaping skills provision.

“There is a thread running through the report around data and labour market intelligence. NIACE strongly supports any moves to make the skills system smarter, more joined up and locally responsive, to learners as well as employers. The report’s emphasis on evidenced based local decision-making would align closely with any NIACE blueprint for a 21st Century skills system.

“However, the report begs some questions if we are going to ensure a more locally responsive skills system. The proposal to relate a higher percentage of adult skills provision to job outcomes (from 10 per cent to 50 per cent) raises serious equality impact issues. It is right to provide better information and advice to help people make better choices about the learning they do in line with local job opportunities. However there are many people who don’t have the right skills now. For those people we need a longer horizon. We must address their basic and ‘soft skills’ needs so that they are ready with the right skills for when our economy improves and more jobs are being created.

“The report is also rather quiet on how HE and innovation can link with local growth. It is vital that Local Enterprise Partnership thinking about a locally responsive skill system is underpinned by an appreciation of broader education and skills need for future, and different, jobs.”

NIACE has strong experience in this area, producing strategic and analytical work to high quality standards and is now offering this support to work alongside local LEPs, to help address issues raised in the Skills Inquiry. We are doing this through:

  • ‘Area Skills Audits’ that review the character and boundaries of learning and skills activity within a functional economic area, assessing viability of local infrastructure against the emerging localist agenda with particular attention to working across boundaries, alignment of resourcing and participation patterns;
  • ‘Skills Options Appraisals’, an opportunity for LEPs and their stakeholders to consider different ways forward, based on a comprehensive, rigorous and evidence-based ‘helicopter’ view of the multitude of service silos that comprise the skills agenda;
  • Solution focused summit techniques that facilitate dialogue between employer, provider, local authority and communities, helping diverse groups to find common goals; and
  • ‘Top Team’ interventions, working with cabinets, political groupings, college governors, Boards of Directors and other senior teams across a range of institutions and sectors.

David Hughes ended:

“Fundamentally, NIACE believes that the skills system exists to meet the needs of people over a working lifetime. In many localities, as things stand, employers, skills providers and the communities they serve too often have differing expectations of the system. The task of bringing these expectations together has seldom been more urgent.”