LEPs Leading the Way in Area Based Reviews

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.

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

Source: Regeneris

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.

In leading the process, LEPs need to engage with issues such as:

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?

A 10-step approach to forming the ‘Skills Conclusion’ for the area

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:

  1. Assess recent employment trends and what that tells us about the resilience of the area and existing and emerging challenges
  2. Identify the priority sectors and the largest sectors in the area.  Although priority sectors are very important to wealth creation, very often they are small sectors that only account for a fraction of the skills needed by employers and may be aspirational. The demands placed by changing demographics on enabling sectors such as health and social care need to be identified.
  3. Analyse the characteristics of the workforce of these sectors – this should look at travel to work patterns, the qualifications of workers and the specific occupations which employers recruit.  It should also consider the age of the workforce to build up a picture of potential replacement demand.  This is a key issue given the challenge facing many LEPs caused by an ageing population. Economic projections and forecasts of future skill needs should be taken into account.
  4. Review the evidence of skill shortages and vacancies by sector – this can make use of existing employer surveys and web-based tools which identify the job specific skills sought by employers. Look at the national literature on the skill needs of key sectors – very often local issues also prove to be national issues.
  5. Explore demographic forecasts to consider the size and composition of the different post-16 cohorts including 16-18, 19-23 and 24+. The role of immigration is an important consideration for the demand for entry level skills.
  6. Consider the impact of planned major investments and the implications for construction and engineering skills – this should look outside LEP boundaries due to the mobile nature of the construction workforce.
  7. Examine the supply of qualifications to support important sectors including detailed analysis of apprenticeships. Explore travel to learn patterns and implications arising for the ABR process.
  8. Understand the current curriculum planning process followed by providers and the extent to which it responds to the latest labour market intelligence, policy drivers and employer and learner needs. Compare and contrast curriculum plans and provider strategies against the LEP understanding of need. Recognise the challenges providers face in meeting need such as funding limitations, skill shortage vacancies in teachers and assessors in key sectors, and achieving the critical mass required to respond to niche skill requirements. The influence of policy in creating demand for particular subjects at particular levels is also an important consideration.  For example, the need for young people to remain in education and training until they are 18 years old and to achieve A*-C GCSE grades in English and Maths.
  9. Related to Step 8, assess the level of engagement between employers and providers, focusing specifically on the level of activity in key sectors and recognising the challenges of engagement with SMEs. Many providers are proactive at engaging with employers and use this intelligence to plan their curriculum for the following academic year.  However, there may be opportunities to enhance this through a collaborative approach with other providers which plays to their individual and collective strengths.
  10. Crucially – test the evidence and conclusions with local employers and sector representatives as well as providers. Our experience has shown that the process would benefit from some primary research to ascertain employer views of existing provision, identify current and future skill requirements, and their view of potential options.

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 s.rosevear@regeneris.co.uk, Lauren Newby l.newby@regeneris.co.uk or Oliver Chapman o.chapman@regeneris.co.uk.




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