Formed in 2012, the Skills and Employment Partnership is a voluntary collaboration between employers, colleges, training providers, funding agencies and local authorities that aims to ensure residents have the skills required to meet the demands of employers. It has clear accountabilities to the Combined Authority and LEP, and works with local providers to understand and respond to present and future growth, employment and skills needs.
As part of this work a supply and demand reconciliation exercise was first carried out in 2010-11 and is updated annually, with an agreed cycle of data collection, analysis, dissemination and consultation to keep up-to-date on skills provision and mismatch. A wide range of data is used to do this, covering growing and declining sectors and occupations, skills and qualifications of the population, training and course provision, uptake of training by individuals and employers and recruitment and skills gaps reported by employers. Forecasts of changes in employment demand by occupation are also included and are compared to the number of people expected to hold qualifications relevant to these growing occupations.
The partnership uses official data sources on the above variables (a list of data sets is available here), but also organises collection of its own data to fill gaps it has identified in existing sources – namely detailed data on localities within Greater Manchester. Using its links with local partners it is able to obtain data directly from colleges, accessing more information on local course provision, enrolment and completion, giving it a fuller picture of training provision and uptake in the city. Additionally Manchester runs its own employer survey to supplement national and regional surveys, allowing it to obtain up-to-the-minute data on factors such as skills gaps and skills utilisation for small localities throughout Greater Manchester. These surveys are distributed to companies through the partnership’s local connections. Data gathered in this way and interpretation of this data is sense checked with a range of stakeholders, including employers, schools and BIS.
The overall aim of the exercise is to identify serious problems of under or over-supply of skills and assess how closely aligned skills provision is to employer and sector needs. This process has identified a number of instances where existing skills supply and course provision do not appear to be meeting the demands of employers, including an over-supply of playgroup leaders and beauticians but an under-supply of hotel and accommodation managers and social workers.
Manchester has used this information on skills mismatch to campaign for more freedom to reshape and restructure FE provision to ensure it fulfils the city’s needs. Recently, through its devolution deal, it has been given the means to do this by determining how Skills Funding Agency (SFA) money will be spent. This local LMI allows the city to look at courses currently funded by the SFA to see if jobs are available in related occupations; if these qualifications are actually needed for available jobs; and if course content matches the skills and knowledge local employers require. This information will then be used to determine if funds are being well spent or if they need to be redirected to achieve a better match between skills supply and demand. This process is still in its early stages, with a revised curriculum due to be confirmed in 2017. However, colleges are already looking at their courses to ensure they align with Greater Manchester’s priorities by using the LMI produce by Manchester that outlines what growth and declining sectors are likely to be, and where current and emerging skills gaps are. This allows colleges to determine which courses are relevant to these sectors and will provide the skills needed. The colleges are also increasingly engaging with employers, to determine first hand if their course content matches employer need.