Role: Associate Director
Date: 19th April 2016
In the third and final of our blogs on Area Based Reviews (ABR) we consider the role of LEPs in the process and what steps need to be taken to form a collective view on the ‘Skills Conclusion’ for the area.
Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) provide the starting point for each review. They have a key role to play in ensuring that the process delivers an offer that meets each area’s educational and economic needs. They can provide the labour market intelligence to guide strategic decision-making and, most importantly, provide a bridge between employers and providers to ensure that the recommendations arising from the review respond to local needs and circumstances.
Figure 1.1 ABR Waves
Local areas have been selected to participate in ‘Waves’. Wave 1 began in September 2015 and included 7 areas across England. Wave 2 commenced in January 2016. Subsequent ‘Waves’ are in the pipeline as illustrated. Some LEP’s are participating in more than one ‘Wave’ including London and EM3.
1) Strategy: how can the ABR process help to deliver the LEP economic agenda?
2) Synergy: how does the ABR process link to existing programmes and projects supported by the LEP and partners?
3) Geography: the ABR process is linked to functional economic areas rather than administrative boundaries. This has implications for how the LEP is analysing need and opportunity. Understanding travel to work and travel to learn patterns is key.
4) Process: what outcomes do the LEP and ABR partners want from the ABR process and how will the review process be managed to ensure there is a clear plan with identified responsibilities and reporting timescales?
The primary role of LEPs in area based reviews is to articulate the labour market needs of the local economy and provide a ‘Skills Conclusion’ to inform the ABR process. This is an imprecise science, and we would question the accuracy of any exercise which sought to quantify the specific numbers of level 3 or level 4 qualifications needed by employers in different sectors. The aim of the exercise should be to identify the main skill priorities facing each sector, supported by as much evidence as possible. This can be done by intelligently combining a range of data sources, and sense checking the conclusions with local stakeholders. As employer led organisations, we also think there is a role for the LEP to assess how effectively these skill needs are currently being met. We would suggest the following steps:
This analysis will be used by the LEP to articulate the LEP’s expectation and vision for skills for the area through a ‘Skills Conclusion’. This needs to outline in detail what jobs there will be, where they will be and at what level, the skills demand required to fulfil this; and what changes are needed to the FE sector to fulfil this and by when.
This exercise cannot be achieved in isolation from the supply-side analysis being undertaken by the SFA (as well as the intelligence that already exists and is held by providers) in order to identify gaps in provision. It is important that the supply-side assessment also takes into account the offer provided by those post-16 providers who are not formally part of the ABR process but make an important contribution to meeting the area’s needs. ABR partners need to work together to consider the implications arising for the ABR and form a collective view on the economic and educational needs of the area. This view should be translated into criteria to appraise options against.
As the findings from earlier Waves are made available, LEPs should evaluate these to identify areas of good practice, lessons learnt and guidance on options and thresholds.
Experiences to date have shown that the timescale of the actual review is challenging (approximately 4-6 months) and the earlier that LEPs and ABR partners start thinking about these issues the better, in order for them to devote sufficient time to developing options premised on a robust understanding of the economic priorities of the area.
For more information about our experience in undertaking skills and sector analysis and supporting the Area Based Review process on behalf of LEPs and their partners please contact Stephen Rosevear email@example.com, Lauren Newby firstname.lastname@example.org or Oliver Chapman email@example.com.
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