I‘ve noticed a lot of rather urgent consultancy briefs and discussions about the new LEP Skills Advisory Panels and that they have been tasked with putting together an evidence base for the demand for, and supply of skills in their local economies. I’ve got a lot of experience doing this kind of work, since 2001, and was also part of the team of advisors that put together the specification for Regional Development Agencies’ skills assessment work back in 2009. I’ve never stopped working with the data or policy issues in skills since 2001.

The Department for Education has put out guidance. But if you have never done this kind of analysis before or seen it, what does it look like?

What the Skills Advisory Panel research reports might look like in real life

Here’s a few examples of recent work I have done on this in Southend-on-Sea and Hertfordshire:

If I was to give any advice at this stage it would be…

  1. Get a good consultant or internal team who are really experienced and have done this before. You can’t learn to do this kind of work in a few weeks or months – its a skill that has to be mastered over years of experience
  2. Remember that skills are a derived demand. They are required to produce something, provide a service or fulfil a market demand. The nature of economic demand and supply in your locality will shape the types of jobs people do now and in the future
  3. Labour markets are also unique. People rent their labour to employers, and can withdraw it at any time. Labour markets are a series of flows. At any one point in time, people are starting new jobs, leaving existing jobs, withdrawing from the labour market, or entering it
  4. It is difficult to provide for specialised or narrow occupational skills at the local level. Make sure the employers get the intake they require – most decent employers want good applicants and starters – they will train them up themselves. Where there are acute skills shortages – this requires some strategic thought about who solves this, and at what geographical level
  5. Its good if you can identify some broad future skills demands that the education sector can reflect upon. For example, there are ‘millenial skills’ which young people need – communications skills, IT skills, business skills, self-management, and project management
  6. Make sure your labour market report is written in plain english and an informative, high impact style. There are so many myths and unsubstantiated views about skills demand and the labour market, and this is just the start of your influencing journey – get it right, make sure it reaches a wide audience
  7. Skills surveys are expensive and you should be consistent with the national employer skills surveys. They are at around £30-35 per completed sample telephone interview. Just think – you might need a sample of anything between 400 and 1500 depending on how you might want to analyse in depth for business size or industrial sector. And you won’t get anything representative or high quality enough from an online survey. Also there’s the national employer skills survey – use that for data, or use the questionnaire as a template in order to be consistent. This is a proven appraoch built since 2001 – use it, don’t try and reinvent it
  8. Don’t let a few vocal stakeholders dominate the conversation or priorities. Take the time and resources to consult widely. There may be reasons why there are skill shortages where employers don’t want to admit that it could be their low pay and working conditions that discourage workers
  9. Don’t forget the public sector. Health and education sectors are massive employers, and sometimes have the structured HR functions and large intakes for entry level jobs and in-work training
  10. Give me a call or email me (glenn@mylocaleconomy) for advice. If you need consultancy support to manager and quality assure this process – I can do that. If you need a hand researching and writing this – I can also put a team together to do this for you.