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Ensure that colleges deliver the skills local businesses need

Last updated: 08:47am 9 January 2019

…and ensure that colleges deliver the skills required by local businesses through Skills Advisory Panels and Local Enterprise Partnerships working at a regional and local level.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.53

Our verdict

Several recent studies have suggested that the UK currently has a skills gap, a gap between what employers want or need from their employees and the availability of employees to carry out those roles. Research in 2018 by the City & Guilds Group found:

“Employers are struggling to fill one in every four job vacancies due to a lack of appropriately skilled candidates.”

As the UK approaches Brexit, there are concerns that these skills gaps will only get wider. It is in this context that the government has made this policy pledge, to ensure that colleges help to fill these gaps, principally through Skills Advisory Panels (SAPs) and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

The government commenced work on this policy by hosting the first Skills Summit in November 2017.  The Summit was supported by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and brought together leading employers representing 3.5 million employees as part of an effort to “spearhead a major skills reform programme”. At the Summit, it was announced that seven regional SAPs were being established to “help identify the skills needs and employer demands at a local level, supporting colleges in providing training that is relevant”. The SAPs are not yet fully up-and-running and so this part of the policy can be deemed ‘in progress’.

The second part relates to Local Enterprise Partnerships, business-led partnerships between local authorities and local private sector businesses. The government reaffirmed its commitment to LEPs  in a policy document in July 2018, Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships which sets out a programme of support for LEPs. With the programme still in its early stages, this part of the proposal can be marked as ‘in progress’.

With both parts of the pledge initiated, the overall policy is ‘in progress’. To move to ‘done’ we’ll expect to see a fully operational network of SAPs and LEPs nationwide. Follow this policy to stay up to date.

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