To begin to progress and grow in a certain sector, first, you have to understand it. In a competitive supply and demand sector such as vocational education/employment information is key, as understanding where the market is heading, where vacancies exist and where labour demand is highest, allows you to adapt and grow with the market. That is why effective use of labour market information (LMI) cannot be understated. In this article, Leeds City College demonstrate the impact of using this LMI to underpin and inform employer engagement.

Context

The Further Education sector is facing increasing challenges in its effort to identify and quantify the skills offer to meet the demands of its customer base. 

In the fast changing economic and social environment in which Leeds City College operates the college recognises the changing relationship in the skills offer, with the purchasing power being more strongly placed in the hands of employers. Consequently it is vital that the college is able to offer a unique solutions package to employers which deliver the right skills and training to support regional businesses to prosper and grow.

To fully achieve this it is crucial that the college understands its position in the skills market, has a sound knowledge of its local employment market, prioritises the needs of its customer base and reviews its provision to assure it provides the skills needed to make a positive impact on the region's economy. One way the college strives to achieve this is through using LMI to underpin its employer engagement and business development activities. 

Business development and employer engagement

Although the college already has good links with regional businesses, it recognises the need to do more to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) achieve their growth ambitions, to sustain strong collaborative links with the network of micro businesses across the city region, and to add value to its existing relationships with large employers. 

In its efforts to evolve its commercial training model to become more flexible, responsive, demand driven, and to support the college to broker new employer relationships and grow existing ones, the Business Development and Employer Engagement Unit recently began using Economic Modeling Specialists Intl’s (EMSI) online LMI software Analyst. 

This proprietary software provides a highly granular analysis at projected labour market changes from 2016-22 across all recognised industries and occupations within the UK. The LMI available via Analyst is being used extensively within the Business Development & Employer Engagement Unit and wider college to ensure the college continues to meet the economic and employment demands of the region. Through delivering relevant training and skills the college aims to help to realise the ambition of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to develop a skilled and productive workforce.

To maximise engagement with LMI the Business Development and Employer Engagement Unit is leading a comprehensive action plan to assure effective cross-college implementation of research to support all outward facing operations. This includes a detailed action plan documenting the ways colleagues can use LMI and evidence based intelligence to underpin and inform engagement with employers. By looking at industries and occupations and how they’re projected to change, the college expects to be able to support and inform mid-long term business and recruitment strategies by enabling greater alignment with labour market and industry projections.

The college’s use of LMI is a core component of the college’s broader employer engagement strategy, which includes a number of key applications including:

  • identifying employers to underpin college’s targeted engagement activities (i.e. by growth industries and occupations, fastest growing occupations, occupations forecast to create the most annual openings)
  • providing intelligence regarding the education level and demographic profile of the Leeds City Region population areas in order to give the college opportunities to help employers better understand the skills profile of their recruitment area and their potential future workforce.

Apprenticeships

In response to the Apprenticeship levy taking effect from April 2017, the college is aware of the growing need to support the UK’s national growth ambition to deliver three million apprenticeships starting by 2020. As a result the college has developed a robust Apprenticeship growth strategy to support the government’s target and to expedite the update of apprentices across the region’s key growth and employment sectors.

Alongside traditional employer engagement mechanisms and targeted marketing activities, the college’s use of LMI will enable employer engagement teams to liaise closely with existing supply chain and broker new relationships with businesses, thereby developing a pipeline of employers to support with apprenticeships. 

By deriving intelligence regarding occupations and industries that are set to grow and then identifying the key employers in these growth sectors, the college is in a much better position to initiate discussions with businesses regarding the skills and qualities apprentices can contribute towards their growth ambitions and help employers to identify and prepare for potential vacancies or future openings that could be filled by Apprenticeships, considering aspects such as skill level, age and location.