– By Stephen Savage, Chair of the Employment and Skills Board
The Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has undertaken its biggest ever skills research ‘Big Data’ project – the Skills Advisory Panel analysis. This data will enable the LEP and its strategic partners to tackle the region’s skills shortages and help meet the needs of businesses across the Humber. This alignment of skills provision will ensure we are fully prepared for new opportunities in decarbonisation, clean growth and the wider areas of economic development.
Skills Advisory Panels (SAPs) originated in the 2017 Conservative Party Manifesto. They aim to bring together local employers and skills providers to pool knowledge on skills and labour market needs, and to work together to understand and address key local challenges. This includes both immediate needs and challenges and looking at what is required to help local areas adapt to future labour market changes and to grasp future opportunities. This will help the region’s colleges, universities and training providers deliver the skills required by employers, now and in the future.
The Humber LEP is committed to driving growth across the Humber economy for the benefit of communities in the four local authority areas of Hull, East Riding, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire. To ensure economic success it is critical to have a well-equipped and skilled workforce to take advantages of future economic opportunities. The SAP framework has enabled the LEP to develop high-quality analysis that will, in turn, shape the local skills agenda. The SAP analysis and report which will be published by the LEP and made available on the website, has identified the skill challenges and opportunities the region faces.
The SAP analytical framework contains five key stages. Chapters include the analysis and definition of the local landscape, analysis of skills demand, analysis of skills supply, mapping of demand and supply and the report conclusions.
The analysis also highlights the challenges the region faces surrounding its rurality. For example, 46% of residents in North Lincolnshire and 60% of resident in the East Riding live in rural communities. This can pose obstacles for residents to access suitable education and training providers. The report states that although, in general, many businesses across the Humber can access the skills needed for their business to grow, a remaining 13% report a substantial skills gap in the workforce. Skill shortages account for a quarter of all vacancies posted, particularly in higher-skilled trades.
Analysis has shown the Humber has seen strong employment opportunities within offshore wind, the wider energy sector and in higher-level occupations. It is estimated that the energy and water sectors will see strong and sustainable employment growth of 35% over the next five years. It is evident that to drive inclusive growth there is a need to facilitate a strong match between the skills of the labour force and the demands of employers. There is expected to be a strong demand for higher-skilled workers, with over 60,000 workers qualified to Level 4 and above (equivalent to a Higher National Certificate) needed by 2024 within the Humber. Tackling the skills gap will be key to enhancing the region’s competitiveness and enable the Humber to unlock its potential, taking advantage of economic opportunities when they arise. This will help mitigate the productivity gap, which will greatly benefit businesses in the Humber, as well as UK plc as a whole.
The LEP, through the existing Employment and Skills Board (ESB), will incorporate the SAP requirements and identify local skills priorities. The ESB will use the analysis to recommend how priorities will be met through local education and training provision, both in the immediate future and looking ahead to the next decade. From the report, six priorities have emerged. These include growing the higher-level skill base, strengthening vocational-technical skill provision, mitigating impacts of an increasingly ageing population, ensuring equitable access to opportunities, raising the digital capacity and encouraging more employers to invest in training.
The SAP analysis, therefore, presents new opportunities for businesses and residents alike. The LEP has used Microsoft BI to create a series of interactive dashboards to facilitate a better-informed collaborative approach. Businesses in the region will see the skills needed for growth met and Humber residents will be able to access skills provision that provides greater access to long-term quality employment. As the region grows – so will the opportunities. Ensuring that the region has adequate levels of skills and maximising the green revolution opportunities will allow the Humber to maintain its place at the forefront of energy in the UK, vastly benefiting businesses as well as its talented and skilled workforce.