Last week’s South West Skills Newsletter reported on small businesses at the heart of the Government’s long-term economic plan, local Strategic Economic Plans, poor pay blackspots and the European Jobs and Skills Summit. The headlines this week focus on labour productivity, the Witty review of universities and growth, the National Strategy for Access and Student Success in Higher Education (HE) and a new report on Careers Guidance from the Association of Colleges (AoC).

In 2013 as a whole, labour market activity grew at similar rates to 2012: jobs and workers grew 1.3 per cent, hours worked grew 2.0 per cent, but the rate of output growth accelerated from 0.4 per cent to 1.7 per cent.

A key report from Universities UK revealed that UK universities generated £73bn in 2011/12 but accounted for just 2.7 per cent of all UK employment. This comes as Government’s Response to Sir Andrew Witty’s review of universities and growth promises a “long term commitment to supporting universities in their mission to deliver economic growth” “by strengthening Local Enterprise Partnerships and helping universities to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs)”. In a speech given to the Universities UK (UUK) conference, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts mentions mapping innovation clusters, pointing out that: “Universities and higher education are worthwhile in their own right. They transform the lives of individuals and shape our society for the better. But today we are putting those benefits to one side. We are focusing on the fact that universities are also powerhouses for economic growth. They are a vital part of the government’s long term economic plan to build a more resilient economy and create jobs.” The Minister went on to say “public sector contributions have fallen below half of all revenue” for the first time, mirroring the picture presented by Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)’s latest HE business and community interaction survey, which finds that UK university earnings from business and community activities grew to £3.6 billion in 2012/13.

The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) welcomed the publication of the national strategy for access and student success in higher education, produced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Office of Fair Access to Higher Education (OFFA). David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, also recently released a written Ministerial Statement on Higher Education Student Support – Changes to Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA).

The Trade Unions’ Congress (TUC) General Council spokesperson on Europe, Billy Hayes, addressed the New Path 4 Europe demonstration in Brussels on Friday, calling for a Europe that Puts People First, stating that the Clegg-Farage debate meant “nothing for working people”, suggesting that the ‘new path for Europe’ campaign would “create 11 million new jobs and end the scandal of zero-hours contracts and agency work loopholes”.

New research from the Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD) finds that women do not apply for ‘male sounding’ jobs. According to the research, words related to stereotypical male traits rob employers of good female candidates. In related news, the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) will be urging the South West’s businesswomen to consider growing their business overseas at a seminar in Chippenham next week.

As part of its ongoing Careers Guidance: Guaranteed campaign, the Association of Colleges has launched a report based on the results of a series of surveys about the quality of independent careers advice and guidance in schools. The report   Why Careers Guidance: Guaranteed is crucial highlights several areas of concern, such as lack of participation in taster days, failing to distribute college prospectuses, access to college liaison officers and information on colleges.

…and finally, speaking of the AoC, congratulations to Richard Atkins, Principal of Exeter College, whom members of the AoC have nominated as their new President-elect.

I hope you find this information useful.