Last week’s South West edition reported on Lord Adonis Growth Review, STEM skills and growth in the creative industries. This week, the headlines focus on UK universities driving growth, STEM skills and Unlocking Potential’s 10th Birthday!

British universities have long been world leaders in research and teaching and the last decade has seen them rise to the challenges and opportunities of the knowledge economy, driving growth across the UK. The UK has the most efficient and effective research base in the world, punching well above its weight, according to new research from HEFCE. UK business incubator SETsquared has been ranked as the top university business incubator in Europe and second best in the world. The number of graduate vacancies has increased by 11.6 per cent this year, returning the graduate jobs market to its pre-recession peak, according to a report from High Fliers Research.

The European Commission has adopted a series of economic policy recommendations – Building growth – Country-specific recommendations 2014 aimed at strengthening the economic recovery of individual Member States to that began a year ago. A cost sharing impact study from Cedefop explores how changes in cost-sharing have an impact on the behaviour of students and higher education institutions. A new Eurobarometer survey on the ‘European Area of Skills and Qualifications‘ shows that around a quarter (23%) of EU citizens feel that their education or training has not provided them with the skills to find a job in line with their qualifications.

On STEM –David Willetts announces a £52 million investment to boost for skills and training in UK science sectors. An Industry and Academia Engagement Day is being held to help shape how the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory contracts for analysis in the future. Big Bang South West was a great success for South West colleges, with prizes awarded to Exmouth Community College, Southbrook, West Exe, Dawlish and Queen Elizabeth’s Academy teams.

UCU recently welcomed a report from the Royal Society outlining a series of proposals for the future of teaching STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). The Technology Strategy Board – the UK’s innovation agency – recently (1 July 2014) published its £400 million blueprint to fund growth of British innovation. The Government’s Your Life campaign, which brings together business, educators, civil society and government to show how science and maths leads to exciting, successful careers, helping to boost participation in STEM subjects, has been joined by the McLaren Group.  Science and small business has been given a voice inside government. Professor Timothy Dafforn and Simon Devonshire are to bring their expertise into the heart of Whitehall as entrepreneurs-in-residence.  Government also recently met with the toy industry to discuss how to get girls interested in science and engineering and to better understand customer attitudes around STEM toys. Exeter’s next generation of scientists, creators and technologists were rewarded for their ingenuity with a string of prizes at The Big Bang South West awards ceremony, which showcases STEM projects from schools and colleges across the West Country and offers winners the chance to compete for major national awards. The ceremony was held at the University of Exeter for the fourth year running. Construction firm BAM has been appointed to build the University of Exeter’s new £50 million research centre – BAM Western region is an accredited national skills academy for construction – the first such appointment in the South West – and will offer apprenticeships on the project. …and for those asking Why STEM? Stephen F. DeAngelis, President and CEO of the cognitive computing firm Enterra Solutions outlines how success starts with critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

On manufacturing –Secretary of State Vince Cable launched the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI) on 9th June, announcing £100 million of funding to help UK companies strengthen their domestic supply chains, reshore work back to the UK and create thousands of new jobs. A series of local briefing sessions will take place to support the latest round of the AMSCI. The 18th Annual Cambridge International Manufacturing Symposium presents an opportunity to hear from world-leading business figures on the challenges facing modern manufacturing. The conference will take place on the 11th and 12th of September 2014 at the Moller Centre in Cambridge.

On engineering – the Women with Bright Ideas Competition encourages budding female entrepreneurs to enter a Dragon’s Den style competition. Set up by Engineering Innovation Network – South West (EIN-SW), Wiltshire Enterprise and NT CADCAM to encourage female innovators to turn their ideas into products. Successful entrants will prepare their Bright Idea for a showcase event in October when they will present to a panel of experts and potential investors who could support the product to a commercial reality. Thanks to Jackie Longworth of Fair Play South West for this useful update on events and initiatives relating to Women in Engineering Day 2014, which was a great successwith over 80 events nationally and more than 200 schools celebrating in one way or another, with #NWED even trending on Twitter above the World Cup and Wimbledon!

…and finally, Jon Cook and the team at Grads for Growth have been busy – celebrating Unlocking Potential’s 10th Birthday! It is no mean feat that, by April 2014, Unlocking Potential had helped nearly 700 businesses recruit more than 1000 graduates – an achievement well worth celebrating.

I hope you find this information useful.



National Headlines

University applications in UK up 4 percent
Education administrators hail ‘excellent news’.

Graduate vacancies return to pre-recession high
The number of graduate vacancies has increased by 11.6 per cent this year, returning the graduate jobs market to its pre-recession peak, according to a report.

Matthew Hancock’s speech on a skills revolution
Speech at the Sutton Trust international summit on professional, technical and vocational education for young people: “We’re encouraging employers to work with training providers to design high quality courses that will deliver the skills they want: a new social contract, with the taxpayer, employers and apprentices working in partnership to secure Britain’s economic future.”

Michael Gove speaks about the future of education reform
Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, speaks to the first Education Reform Summit in London.

CIPD Manifesto for Work calls for shift in employment policy
With the general election less than a year away, the CIPD has published a ‘Manifesto for Work’ to urge politicians to focus on new ways to future proof UK employment.

Work-life balance initiatives ‘won’t have significant impact’
The new flexible working rules will have little practical impact, according to law experts at the CIPD’s recent Employment Law Conference.

Millions face unemployment ‘twilight zone’, says LGA
In the next 10 years, more than eight million people could be without a job or in work they are over-qualified for, the Local Government Association has warned.

ONS produces interactive map showing economic activity across UK
New website allows users to see how much their region contributes to the economy compared with the rest of the UK.

Another record-breaking year for Erasmus
The latest Erasmus statistics released by the European Commission today reveal that nearly 270 000 students – a new record – benefitted from EU grants to study or train abroad in 2012-2013.

Speech by David Willetts to the UK Science Park Association
Embracing innovation in the UK.

TUC – Public sector workers lose out on £2,245 under this government
Since the government took office, ministers have either frozen public sector pay or limited pay increases to well below the cost of living, leaving local government workers, NHS staff, teachers, firefighters, civil servants and other public servants on average £2,245 worse off in real terms, says the TUC today (Wednesday).

Call for a network of experts on the social dimension of education and training
On 04/07/2014 the European Commission launched an open call for tenders to establish a network of experts on the social dimension of education and training.

Thousands more school leavers choosing apprenticeships
New statistics show thousands more 16- and 17-year-olds embarking on apprenticeships than last year.

Wage gap between the sexes becomes yawning chasm as employees age
The gender pay gap has decreased since the 1970s but the disparity between what men and women take home today still differs dramatically after the age of 30, Office for National Statistics data has revealed.

CBI/Pearson survey highlights skills crisis
The education and skills survey published today by the CBI and Pearson supports many of the priority areas for action detailed in the NIACE manifesto – Prosperity for All: Building Sustainable Recovery for All.

UK ‘to become Europe’s second largest economy by 2020’
The UK’s economy is set to overtake that of France by 2020 to become the second largest in Europe, according to forecasts by consultancy firm PwC.

CBI – too many school leavers ‘underequipped for life’
The British economy is being put at risk because large numbers of teenagers are leaving school and college “underequipped for life”, according to the UK’s biggest business group.

ESF learners clean up at the Adult Learners’ Week awards 2014
Success for learners who won a collection of ESF Project Regional Awards.

Be part of the biggest festival of learning in 2015
NIACE would like to thank the thousands of organisations and individuals who helped make Adult Learners’ Week 2014 in England and Wales so successful and ask them, and others, to get involved in Adult Learners’ Week 2015 from Saturday 13 June – Friday 19 June.

TUC – ONS research shows Britain needs living wages
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady comments on a new analysis of earnings growth over the last 40 years, published today (Thursday) by the Office for National Statistics.

DWP response to the National Audit Office report on the Work Programme
DWP response to the National Audit Office (NAO) report on the Work Programme.

‘Flawed’ Work Programme contracts costing millions, say government auditors
Tens of millions of pounds is being paid in bonuses to under-performing contractors responsible for the Government’s flagship back-to-work scheme, government auditors have warned.

Tighter visa rules limit international talent options
Fall in skilled migrant worker numbers damages UK business, says Cable.

DfE under fire over proposed cuts to councils’ education services grant
Local government leaders say cutting funds to cover school improvements will hit efforts to revive failing establishments.

Ofsted announces school sixth forms to get separate grades
“AoC would like to see school and academy sixth forms having the same inspection regime as colleges as this would inform the complicated choices students and their parents have to make at 16.” – Joy Mercer, Director of Policy at the Association of Colleges

South West Headlines

Local support announced for jobseekers to help prepare for Universal Credit
Jobseekers to get extra help to get online and manage their finances on a monthly basis to prepare for the world of work under Universal Credit.

Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP backs Government campaign to help businesses sell to the public sector
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is backing a Government campaign to help small businesses provide services to the public sector.

National award for university and students’ union partnership
The University of Exeter, University of Exeter Students’ Guild and Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union (FXU) have been awarded the 2014 Students’ Union and Institution Partnership Award by the Higher Education Academy and National Union of Students.

Questions over job creation despite rise in Exeter business confidence
Exeter businesses are reporting increased workloads and confidence but questions remain about how far their improving fortunes are reflected in recruitment intentions, a new poll suggests.

More than 160 Jobs go in Somerset as Woodberry Brothers and Haines enters administration
One of Highbridge’s biggest employers has gone into administration with the loss of more than 160 jobs.

85 Jobs Lost as Paignton Electronics Firm Syntech Closes
Eighty five people have lost their jobs after an electronics firm in Paignton ceased trading.