Last week’s South West Skills Newsletter reported on the International Learning Times conference, Science, Technology, English and Maths (STEM) apprenticeships, education budgets, workforce dynamics and zero-hours contracts. This week, the headlines are around regional labour market statistics, calls for radical reforms to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the Council Assets Programme and student satisfaction success.

The latest labour market data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month suggest employment rates remain higher in the East of England at 76.3 percent, South East (76.2 percent) and South West (76.0 percent) than the rest of the UK. The South West saw the largest decreases in the unemployment rate for the three months to March 2014 compared to the three months to December 2013 at 1.6 percentage points, followed by Scotland (0.7 percentage points). The underlying picture for the South West suggests that the unemployment rate is decreasing, although the rate of decrease is again likely to be far more gradual than suggested by comparing the latest estimates. This comes as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable proposed that the UK labour market may be too flexible, calling for ‘right to request’ fixed contracts for employees.

A radical reform to the role of LEPs, including giving councils sign-off of economic strategies, is needed to tackle the North-South divide, according to former Labour housing minister John Healey. In a report for the Smith Institute think-tank, Healey said the number of LEPs should be cut. There are currently 39 in England, but they should be reduced in number to ensure they match functional economic areas and can be given more resources to act as a ‘bedrock’ for local growth powers. As part of reforms to ‘sharpen’ the bodies, town halls should sign-off on the LEPs’ strategies as part of the bid process to access funding from the government’s £2bn single pot for economic development from next April, he added. Currently, local authorities have input to the growth plans as members of the LEP, but do not give final, formal approval. Local authorities can apply for a programme to help save money and create new homes and jobs through better use of their assets through the Council Asset Programme, which recently opened to new applicants.

A long-time colleague and friend of ours, Ron McQuaid, Professor of Work and Employment at University of Stirling, has resisted the allure of the Ochil Hills for long enough to publish a new book entitled The Impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland – Tracking Study, Interim Report to Scottish Government’, the baseline report of a qualitative, longitudinal study exploring the impact of on-going welfare changes on a range of households in Scotland over time.

…and finally, the University of Exeter has been ranked seventh in the UK in the prestigious Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2014, making Exeter’s students amongst happiest in UK.

I hope you find this information useful.



UK / Higher Education News

UK Labour Market may be Too Flexible, says Cable
Minister calls for employee ‘right to request’ fixed contract.

More than Four Million People now Regularly Work from Home
The number of people who say they usually work from home increased by 62,000 over the course of last year to reach more than four million for the first time.

Spark Imaginations with the Festival of Learning
In the lead up to Adult Learners’ Week (14 – 20 June) NIACE is inviting providers to get involved in this year’s Festival of Learning throughout May – June, to inspire people to have a go at learning and celebrate its many benefits.

Fieldwork begins for Employer Investment Fund and Growth and Innovation Fund Survey
Fieldwork is now underway for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ (UKCES) Employer Investment Fund and Growth and Innovation Fund survey.

What I’m really thinking: the careers adviser
‘My job is to listen to your hopes and dreams but also to add a dose of realism’

Updated traineeships framework offers ‘sensible changes and more flexibility’
“The updated document includes some sensible changes and more flexibility, particularly in allowing providers on financial notice to improve to run programmes so long as they meet the quality criteria.” – Teresa Frith, AoC

Why do girls not do physics A-level? IOP to investigate
A research project into why girls drop physics after GCSE has been announced by the Institute of Physics (IOP).

Labour Pledges Minimum Wage Link to Average Earnings
Ed Miliband calls Britain’s low pay living conditions a ‘scandal’.

Commission into the Future of Work launched
The Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion is proud to be part of a new Commission into the Future of Work, chaired by the National Union of Students (NUS), which is open until Friday 30 June.

80 percent of People who are Deaf cite Employers as a Major Barrier to Work
Three out of four people with hearing loss feel their employment opportunities are more limited than their hearing peers, with almost 80 per cent naming employers as the major barrier according to new research by Action on Hearing Loss, to mark Deaf Awareness Week.

TUC welcomes Buckle Review call for Higher Minimum Wages
“The minimum wage grew from a union campaign to a landmark achievement of the last Labour government. Now after years of real wage cuts, we need to see far greater ambition to achieve fair pay.” – Frances O’Grady, TUC

Governments must tame Corporate Power as Low Wages and Insecure Jobs threaten Global Recovery
Workers across the world are losing their faith in national governments who they believe are putting the interests of big corporations ahead of their own, according to a new global poll published today (Sunday) by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

IfL welcomes Publication of Professional Standards
The Institute for Learning (IfL) has welcomed the Education and Training Foundation’s publication of new professional standards for teachers and trainers in the further education and skills sector.

New School Direct Programme for Early Years Initial Teacher Training
NCTL is introducing School Direct for early years initial teacher training (ITT) from September 2014.

Talented School-Leavers offered Careers in Government
At the end of April job offers were made to 200 successful applicants to join the expanding Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme.

Neets fall by 118,000 from last year, ONS data shows
But numbers remain high, prompting renewed calls for better careers advice.

CBI – Strong outlook for manufacturing sector
Activity in the UK manufacturing sector remained solid in May, and output is expected to rise strongly in the next three months, the latest CBI Industrial Trends Survey shows.

International Festival for Business 2014 and UK Trade & Investment
The International Festival for Business (IFB) will be the UK’s most significant international trade and commerce showcase since 1951.

NEET in England at lowest level since 2005
New figures show 135,000 fewer young people not in education, employment or training since last year.

Apply for the Civil Service Human Resources Fast Stream programme
The application window for the Civil Service Human Resources Fast Stream programme is now open until 9 June 2014.

South West Labour Market News

Council Asset Programme Opens to New Applicants
Local authorities can apply for a programme to help save money and create new homes and jobs through better use of their assets.

Exeter Students amongst Happiest in UK According to Times Higher Survey
The University of Exeter has been ranked seventh in the UK in the prestigious Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2014.

Paignton’s South Devon College top of table as ‘best in country’
South Devon College has topped the national further education tables as the best college in the country.

British Gas subcontracting changes ‘cutting Plymouth jobs’
Dozens of builders insulating ex-council houses in Plymouth are to be told they are losing their jobs because of subcontracting changes by British Gas, a local company boss says.

European elections 2014 – What you need to know about the South West candidates
Forty-eight candidates under eight separate party banners will contest the South West’s European Parliament seats this Thursday.

UK students trailing EU peers on take up of Erasmus exchanges
The Erasmus+ programme, which aims to boost the number of students and staff studying and working abroad across the European Union, started on January 1 2014.

UK Employment and Skills Research Papers

Evaluation of the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund
Research providing an independent evaluation of the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund.

The Impact of Tertiary Education on Development
Part of a series of rigorous literature reviews in education funded by DFID.

Apprenticeships – progression to higher education – 2014 update
An update of a 7 year review tracking advanced level apprentices into higher education. Looks at 6 groups of advanced level apprentices who had completed their courses. Describes the complex nature of apprenticeship progression to higher education, in both colleges and universities.

Higher and further education and skills – review of value added
Review of literature looking at the economic value of higher and further education and training. Aimed at those who calculate and interpret estimates of the economic value of education and training. Reviews some of the main assumptions underpinning the estimates used by the department and others, making recommendations for the most appropriate ways of addressing each of the issues in future analysis.

Improving the student learning experience
Sector-wide view of how higher education institutions across England are improving student learning opportunities. A survey of higher education institutions in England giving a sector-wide view of how institutions are improving student learning opportunities in an environment of higher education reform.

Improving engagement between employers and colleges
Highlights the mutual benefits of close working links between colleges and employers and aims to prompt further discussion. Created by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), the Gazelle Colleges Group and the 157 Group. Based on 12 months of research, including interviews, workshops and surveys with colleges and employers around the country. Explains the need for both colleges and employers to build on current relationships to better equip both sides to deal with rising skills shortages. Highlights the benefits of building strong links between colleges and employers, identifies the characteristics of successful collaborations, the challenges identified and how to overcome them.

Industry Skills Research Papers

Higher apprenticeships – employer participation in the accounting sector
An in-depth look at new apprenticeships in the accounting sector. Provides an assessment of employers’ participation in higher apprenticeships in accounting (Level 4).

Apprenticeships – employer participation in the health sector
An in-depth look at new apprenticeships in the health sector. Provides an in-depth assessment of apprenticeships in 3 broad frameworks delivered within the National Health Service (NHS): clinical support roles (for example, nursing support roles); business administration, and; engineering.

Employer involvement in qualifications assessment
Research identifying good practice in employer involvement in qualifications assessment. Sets out the findings from research to identify good practice in employer involvement in the provision and assessment of qualifications. It reports on data drawn from 46 interviews with awarding organisations, employers and training providers, which were captured in 20 case studies.

Construction sector – skills assessment
An outline of skills needs and priorities for the construction sector. Aims to provide labour market intelligence for the sector in order to inform the development of skills policy across the UK. Four Sector Skills Councils were involved in its preparation – Construction Skills, Summit Skills, Asset Skills and Semta.

Local Enterprise Partnership Priorities

Substantial Rise in Older Workers, says ONS
Number of people employed aged 65 and over rose by 25,000 this quarter.

Updated Solent European Structural and Investment Fund Strategy Published
The Solent LEP has received positive feedback on the Solent European Structural and Investment Fund Strategy published in February 2014 from Central Government.

Royal Agricultural University Graduate Employability Rates up to 97.5 percent
The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) is celebrating high employability figures across the board. Recent surveys of 2013 graduates have shown that 96.3% of undergraduates and 97.5% of postgraduates are in employment or further study within six months of leaving the RAU.

Local Companies Sought for Development of Business Management Qualification
The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is calling on SME businesses to help develop a local business management MBA type qualification.

Former Minister Urges Local Enterprise Partnership Shake-up
Labour Ministers commented: ‘The report provides three clear insights into how we can strengthen local economic leadership. Firstly, our local economies cannot withstand another major upheaval of the local growth infrastructure… Evolution and not revolution is the right way forward. Secondly, there needs to be a much bolder and simpler offer of devolution to city and county regions than what has been on the table so far. Third, not enough has been done to strengthen partnerships between local authorities and independent LEPs.’ Responding to the report, Graeme McDonald, the director of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, said he agreed there was an urgent need to realign LEP boundaries.

International Skills Research Papers

Emerging Europe outlook Q1 2014
An overview of prospects for emerging Europe from the British Embassy Budapest. There continues to be steady improvement in growth across Europe but it remains a fragile recovery.

Forecasts for the UK economy: May 2014
A comparison of independent forecasts for the UK economy in May 2014.

The costs to the UK of language deficiencies as a barrier to UK engagement in exporting
A UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) commissioned review of the evidence which shows the impact of language skill deficiencies on UK trade performance. Shows that poor language skills in businesses are holding back the UK’s trade performance.

Weekly economic indicators
The Pocket databank is a weekly HM Treasury statistical publication, containing major economic indicators and series for both domestic and international economies.

Skills and Growth Events

Falling Off the Radar? The impacts of digital by default
23 June 2014, 10.00 – 15.30, Best Western Tiverton Hotel, Blundells Road, Tiverton

23/06/2014 – This conference aims to bring key stakeholders together, to discuss and promote synergies between agencies involved in the promotion of digital and social inclusion in Devon, with a focus on deprived urban areas and rural communities. Confirmed speakers include: Professor Jane Seale (University of Exeter), Nora Corkery (Devon Welfare Rights Unit) and Julie Hawker (Cosmic and LEP). Rob Garrett: rgarrett@tuc.org.uk or telephone 07899 966 358.

IntoWork Convention 2014
8-9 July 2014, Arena Convention Centre, Liverpool

08/07/2014 – In 2014 it will be called the IntoWork Convention and will be for everyone involved in helping people find work, keep work and progress in work. The IntoWork Convention will be larger and more interactive showcasing ‘what works’ in employment, skills, health and for disadvantaged people.

TUC Congress 2014
7-10 September 2014, BT Convention Centre, Kings Dock, Liverpool L3 4FP

07/09/2014 – Visitor application forms will be available from May.

2013 results of the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)
How to Best Shape Teacher Policies? Policy lessons from international comparisons.
25-26 June 2014, Tokyo, Japan

25/06/2014 – With the theme “How to Best Shape Teacher Policies? Policy lessons from international comparisons and guidance for education and schools in the future”, this Seminar aims to provide an opportunity to exchange views on how to best shape teacher policy so as to have the strongest impact on the quality of the learning environment.

AoC Sustainability Portfolio Group – 1st annual conference
8 July 2014, Think Low Carbon Centre, Barnsley

08/07/2014 – The conference, entitled; Sustainability, Employment, Education and the Role of Colleges, will showcase best practice from around the regions of England on colleges’ success in engaging learners in the importance of Sustainable Skills for Employability. It will also highlight the successful career paths provided by sustainability and environmental skills. The venue for the event is the Think Low Carbon Centre, Barnsley College. We have chosen the venue to demonstrate the technology and techniques needed to make a low carbon building as well as highlighting how colleges can lead the way on sustainability. With our partners, Social enterprise organisation, 4 All of Us, we will also be creating a sustainable legacy fund via the conference. This fund will be open to Colleges and groups demonstrating sustainability within further education.

HEFCE Annual Meeting 2014
16 October 2014, 09:30-13:00, Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG

16/10/2014 – The meeting offers an opportunity to learn more about current developments, HEFCE’s role and the challenges facing higher education. Booking for the event will open in August.

Welfare reform – creating effective local delivery partnerships
20 December 2014, Prospero House, Borough High Street, London SE1

20/12/2014 – This one day conference will provide an early opportunity to consider the updated Local Support Services Framework and will feature examples of best practice in the planning and delivery of services sharing learning from the Local Authority led pilots as well as drawing on the experience of housing associations, and third sector organisations in the delivery of budgeting support, debt advice, and financial inclusion inititatives, local welfare schemes, and digitial inclusion projects.

Unions and the path to war – Tolpuddle Radical History School
17 July to 19 July 2014, Tolpuddle Festival Site

17/07/2014 – Open to all, the history school is a great chance to learn more about radical and trade union history. Running ahead and alongside the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival it offers a chance to learn lessons from the past in beautiful, rural Dorset. There will be plenty of opportunitity for discussion. Visit the Tolpuddle Martyrs website for full programme information.

Living and Working in Wiltshire Event 2014
3 July 2014, Tidworth Leisure Centre, Nadder Road, Tidworth, Wiltshire, SP9 7QN

03/07/2014 – The “Living and Working in Wiltshire and Swindon” event will bring local businesses and the military together in Tidworth on 3rd July 2014.

IfL Fellowship Research Programme
17th Oct 2014, Oxford

17/10/2014 – The IfL Fellowship Research Programme is designed to develop individuals’ research and publication skills.

Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen Careers Show 2014
17 June 2014, 10:00 – 20:00, Thistle Cheltenham Hotel, Gloucester Road, Cheltenham

17/06/2014 – A new careers fair will give job hunters unrivalled access to the county’s top employers. The Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen Careers Show 2014 will take place at The Thistle Cheltenham Hotel in June. The show, which is signing up a range of large and small employers across the county, is backed by the newspapers’ job section Jobs 24/7.

An event organised by Fair Play South West – the Women’s Equality Network
6 June, 2014, Innovation Centre, University of Exeter, 10:00 – 15:30

06/06/2014 – Fair Play South West is pleased to present the “Women’s Manifesto” which was launched at our 2013 AGM last June. It is based on what women and women’s organisations in the South West tell us are the key policy imperatives to ensure progress towards women’s equality – in the economy, in power, in safety and in health. There will be workshops and opportunities for input from delegates, both to support the content of the manifesto and for discussion on how to use it to achieve real change for women. Lunch provided.

(R)Ace Towards a Low Carbon Business Future
4 June 2014, Greenbridge incubator, Wetenschapspark 1, B-8400 Ostend

04/06/2014 – Six Belgian, French and English project partners have worked together for almost three years to help businesses, business clusters and business parks in their transition to a low carbon economy. On the 4th of June 2014, we will share with you concrete tips and ideas for saving energy within your company and reducing your carbon emissions. The conference is a free event, but registration is necessary. The seminar will be held in Dutch and English, with French and English translation.