Ian Elliott, who chairs the Humber LEP Skills Network and is Chief Executive of HETA, looks at initiatives to improve employability
Whatever your reaction to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Summer Budget measures to wards up-skilling the UK’s work force, increasing business productivity and competitiveness are intrinsically linked to better training and employability.
The education and training agenda is being addressed in part through a greater commitment to apprenticeships and work place training, and by encouraging more young people to choose subjects in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM). Locally, the Humber LEP is delivering on several skills interventions, including the recent launch of a resource for schools in a series of videos which show some of the exciting STEM career opportunities.
The Humber, the UK’s Energy Estuary, is the hub for the renewable energy industry. These new industries which are being developed in the region have further highlighted a shortage of skilled work-ready people capable of taking up the opportunities offered. The Humber LEP, through its positive partnership with the University of Hull and skills and education providers in the area, has established a virtual Humber Energy Campus. This virtual campus aims to deliver a coordinated point for potential investors, linking to the Humber Bridging the Gap careers portal. Supported by Growth Fund and City Deal money, the virtual campus will enhance skills projects which are offering local people better access to education and jobs by supporting approximately 1,500 additional learning opportunities for adults over three years.
Being work-ready is not only about having the right qualifications and learning facilities. In addition to those recognised essential ingredients, employers talk about an ethereal requirement – employability skills. Linked closely with the CBI seven skills and the ‘Rotherham Ready’ recommendations these include, evidence of an individual’s ability to work as part of a team, communicate effectively, demonstrate commitment to a workplace or apply literacy and numeracy skills in a work environment.
Recognising that employability is as important as having the right skills set, the Humber LEP launched its own Employability Charter, and is currently piloting a Humber Employability Passport. This recognises the good progress made in several local schools and colleges in establishing their own approach by providing a validation framework to accredit those passports that demonstrate a fit with employer need. The framework is based on those specified by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which are: self-management; teamwork; business and customer awareness; problem solving; communication and literacy: application of ICT and application of numeracy. It supplements the work led by North Lincolnshire Council on matching skills to a range of job roles. Working with employers, this framework is already being used in several schools from primary age upwards to explain how students can develop their personal profile.
Complementing these employability initiatives, the Humber Gold Standard has been introduced for careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) offered to 11-19 year-olds in schools, academies, colleges and providers in the area. Research by the Humber Skills Commission highlighted a lack of quality and consistency of local delivery. Developed with partners, the Gold Standard follows national guidelines and policy with careers education statutory requirements. It also underpins requirements of the Ofsted Common Inspection Framework (for Schools). Schools, colleges and providers which subscribe to the standard are kept on a public register to inform parental and learner choice. Mark Dixon, partner at Hull law firm Rollits commented, “It’s not just being able to do a job, it’s the way that graduates will actually go about doing it which is really valuable to us. We can recruit really well from institutions such as Hull College, because they do have the employability skills that we’re looking for.”
Lack of employability skills is undoubtedly a barrier to getting work. Although some of these can be taught in the classroom, getting employers into schools and education and training providers and giving young people work experience offer valuable learning opportunities. Often, it’s only when the young person finds themselves with a specific task they realise that their day to day skills are transferable and start to understand the concept of employability. Dan Goodger, a student from Bridlington summed his recent work experience as “Over my two weeks I learned a huge range of new skills – teamwork, self management, communication and more. It was an excellent opportunity and as a result, I have a much better understanding of the work-place.”
The Humber LEP Skills Network, an association of delivery partners, agencies, employers and stakeholders , provides essential input to the Humber employment and skills agenda. It cascades information about the Humber Employment and Skills implementation plan, consults on content and involves providers in delivery.
The Network provides a forum for partners involved in all aspects of employment, skills and education in the Humber to meet, share information and good practice, and seeks to influence employment and skills provision in line with economic priorities. Interested parties can sign up to Skills Network via the Humber LEP website http://www.humberlep.org/skills/skills-network/