Do you know where the work is?
What are employers in your local area looking for?
How can you ensure the best possible future for the people you educate?
How can you be sure you are running the courses that will lead to jobs and fulfilling careers for local people?
These have long been the questions FE colleges seek to answer. While finance streams and government priorities may sometimes skew which courses can and do get funding, these decisions are best made on the needs and demands coming from the local labour market as served by the college. But engaging with this across the board is notoriously difficult, and understanding this need has always been difficult to gauge.
IPPR (the Institute for Public Policy Research), the JPMorgan Foundation and Burning Glass have teamed up to create Where The Work Is. This tool was created as part of a three-year collaboration called New Skills at Work, seeking to equip the UK to compete in a post-Brexit economy and improve skills infrastructure in the UK. This is an innovative digital tool that lets you know what employers in your area are looking for from the local workforce.
This will be invaluable in curriculum planning
The website is completely free to use. The current focus of the tool is on mid-skill, entry-level roles that require some qualification. The tool also delineates between those opportunities that seek candidates with FE or HE qualifications. It helps you understand, down to national/regional and many Local Economic Partnership levels, which skills are over- and under-represented in your area and what local employers are seeking and valuing.
This will be invaluable in curriculum planning. Knowing on a real-time basis what the trends are in local employment, where the gaps are and which occupations are in demand will help colleges plan ahead and ensure that their students get the most from the skills they learn.
Brexit will put a great deal of additional pressure on employers and educators to increase and use their local skills capacity. It is therefore essential that people turning to Further Education to give them the skills they need to equip them for the future can get the right advice and guidance, career paths and skills they need to fully participate in the labour market.
There can be hidden pockets of employment and skills needed from smaller businesses
While FE colleges are great at working with lots of local employers, there is a need for an overview of the whole area to balance the input from these employers who tend to be larger and more dominant. Often there can be hidden pockets of employment and skills needed from clusters of smaller businesses. These can be seen through the Where The Work Is tool in equal measure to the skills needed by these larger, more traditional employers.
As the labour market adapts to the challenges of the 21st century so too must our skills infrastructure and providers. It is in the ability to reflect the market as it is and show trends as they develop that makes Where The Work Is a continually helpful and valuable resource that people working in FE are returning to time and again.
We know that resources in FE are notoriously tight. In this constrained landscape, every penny saved helps. That is why this tool is completely free to use. There are no stealth charges or on-selling – it’s just a resource we developed because employers, educators and the politicians who allocate resources told us it would be helpful. We also greatly value any and all feedback on your experiences in using the tool and how we might improve it. This is a community-focused tool that we want to continue to develop in consultation with its users.
We know that FE colleges are increasingly looking to make data-informed decisions that help you serve your community. It is to help you do so that we developed Where The Work Is.
Clare McNeil is Associate Director for Work and Families at IPPR. If you have any questions about Where The Work Is or the New Skills At Work programme please email firstname.lastname@example.org.