While levelling up is a national agenda, its delivery is very much a local challenge. As we saw in our previous blog in this series, having the ‘right’ skills varies from one context to another. In aggregate, having more skills leads — on average — to better outcomes for people and places, but to ensure long-term economic success these skills need to be aligned with the needs of employers. This means that, now more than ever, education providers, economic development agencies and businesses need to work together to promote growth in their local economy.
To do so successfully, different partners need to speak the same language — the language of skills. Labour market insights that focus on skills rather than occupations or education standards and levels, can help better match demand and supply of skills at the local level as they focus on the common grounds between different parties. Education providers can use these insights to better understand business needs, and hence shape their curriculum in a way that is tailored to local needs.
The chart below illustrates the point for the Devon, Plymouth and Torbay area, using our Open Skills Taxonomy and our Job Posting Analytics to identify how often major skills categories appeared in online employer adverts between 2016 and 2021. What we find is that demand for certain skills such as IT; Health Care; and Maintenance, Repair and Facility Services has increased over the period, whilst demand for Sales; and Analysis has declined.
Local partners can also use data to zoom in on the specific needs within a sub-section of their economy. For example, the chart below plots the skills most frequently associated with job postings requiring IT skills in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, and what we find is that often (over 40% in fact) IT-related skills are required in combination with Communication skills; Initiative and Leadership; and Customer Service. It also shows that within the broad family of IT skills, Basic Technical Knowledge; and Software Development are among the most in-demand.
The data above for Devon, Plymouth and Torbay therefore tells us:
That demand for IT-related courses is increasing over time
What particular IT-skills are most requested by businesses in the local area
Which soft-skills education providers need to help learners develop alongside the more technical skills.
These types of insights create a win-win situation for all local partners, enabling them to work together to shape the education provision which will ultimately promote local economic growth.
With its 300+ pages, 12 missions and multiple policy actions, the Levelling Up White Paper illustrates that the process of levelling up local areas is no simple task. Like all big challenges, it requires all actors to join forces, work together, and commit for the long-term. However, not only are these local partnerships something that have been happening for some time, there now exists a wealth of granular data for their area which can help give even more focus and understanding to their discussions, strategies and interventions.
You can watch our extended discussion on the Levelling Up agenda and Local Partnerships below, and register for our next Levelling Up webinar, in which we’ll be focusing on regional disparities, by clicking the button below.