LEPs can help provide pathways to technology careers

22 September 2014

Column originally published in the Local Government Chronicle on 9 September 2014.

In early 2014 NIACE published groundbreaking research on its work with a number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) employers in the Dorset LEP area.

All the employers were positive about the potential of the government’s new traineeship programme. They saw how a traineeship – a pre-apprenticeship programme for young people – could provide a much-needed pathway to future STEM careers.

However, there was a problem. Prior to our intervention, not one of the 14 participating employers had actually heard of traineeships. This risked limiting the potential of traineeships, which rely in part on employers providing work placements as a key part of the national programme.

Our work also demonstrated that the role of LEPs was crucial for the successful delivery of the traineeship programme, and vital to evaluating and subsequently meeting the growing and changing needs of local labour markets, STEM or otherwise.

Skills shortages are the biggest threat to sustainable and equitable economic growth for communities across the county. Employers who invest in training for their staff at all levels recognise that by developing their workforce they are improving their productivity and business success.

But the recent UKCES Employer Skills Survey showed that only two-thirds of employers were regularly training their staff, and a third of all workers – which could be as many as 10 million people – get no training at work whatsoever.

We set out bold remedies for change in the national skills system in our 2015 general election manifesto published in June. A ‘new localism’ on skills was central to this proposition, a proposal that rapidly commanded strong support from across local government.

We are also now taking forward the findings of our initial work in Dorset. This will expand the programme to the Humber LEP this autumn, delivering a demonstration pilot exploring how traineeships can work for STEM within the local area.

The programme will support Humber LEP to raise awareness of the traineeship programme and to enable providers to develop STEM-focused traineeship opportunities that are responsive to local skills gaps. It will also empower the LEP to better engage STEM employers in offering traineeship work experience opportunities to young people.

STEM is a key priority within the Humber region, which has a strategic focus on a number of industries including renewable energy, engineering, manufacturing, ports and logistics and chemicals. NIACE’s work with Humber LEP will complement a range of established and planned STEM activity within the region, including the development of the innovative Humber Energy Skills Centre of Excellence.

We are looking forward to continuing to help LEPs and local government maximise the impact of practical vocational skills programmes, providing much-needed pathways to STEM job roles for young people in response to local labour market needs.