In last week’s WebFlash we reported on labour productivity, the Witty review of universities and growth, the National Strategy for Access in Higher Education and changes to Careers Guidance. The headlines this week focus on wage rate dynamics, devolution, further calls for funding to support universities in driving regional economic growth and Solent LEP’s maritime skills strategy.

Wages outstripped inflation, according to official figures published last week, with unemployment falling below 7 per cent. Pay rose by 1.7 per cent, ahead of the March inflation rate of 1.6 per cent, while there was a quarterly fall of 77,000 in the number of people out of work. But people are not celebrating an end to their cost of living squeeze yet warned the TUC’s Frances O’Grady – “With wages increasing by just 1.7 per cent, barely enough to keep up with a prices measure that doesn’t even include housing costs, the cost of living crisis is far from solved. This is not worth even half a cheer.” Research from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG shows the fastest climb in starting salaries for seven years but also finds a sharp decline in candidate availability. However, (and it is a big ‘however’), according to research by The Complete University Guide, the average graduate starting salary has dropped 11 per cent over a five-year period to 2012, despite degree costs rising while pay fell by £2,500 between 2007 and 2012. This trend has worsened since the previous period (between 2005 and 2010), which saw graduate starting salaries drop by 4 per cent.

This comes amid calls for further investment in universities to rebalance the UK’s regional economies. A study of the economic impact of graduates recommends universities should be placed at the centre of strategies to boost regional growth. NIACE released a statement suggesting that the big skills challenge for LEPs would manifest itself in devolution proposals, which, they said, would “require LEPs to recognise the already acute pressures on the adult skills budget, and their need to produce all-ages skills strategies that properly reflect the needs of their local labour market”.  NIACE’s Dr Fiona Aldridge responded to the announcement of the Youth Employment Initiative – a £170m programme to help young people into work across nine Local Enterprise Partnerships areas – stating that local planning and integration [would be] vital for the initiative”. NIACE also applauded the Digital Inclusion Strategy, aiming to help millions of adults get online, but called for increased funding for specific projects to aid more rapid progress.

A new report, 16-19 Education Stripped to the Bare Bones, cautions that A-Level students are missing out on up to 200 hours of time with their teachers over their two-year courses, as compared with their older siblings who sat A-Levels five years ago, because of cuts to post-16 funding.

In the South West, music and arts organisation Superact has relocated to Exeter, bringing more employability projects to Devon.

A strategy linked to the Solent Strategic Economic Plan devised by the Marchmont Observatory, which aims to rekindle the Solent’s marine and maritime success, creating a climate for sustainable growth in these industries in the area, was published last week on the BIS website.

…and finally, I’ve recently updated headline figures from the Labour Market Intelligence page for our chums at the South West Skills and Learning Intelligence Module.

I hope you find this information useful.