Why Vocational Education Is Key To Filling Regional Skills Shortages

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There has been a skills shortage across the UK for some time now, with each region tackling its own skills gaps across a number of sectors. For example, eastern England has a shortage in mechanical engineers, nurses and chefs. As Brexit draws closer, experts predict those skills gaps will widen even further, with less migrants able to fill a number of positions. 

In a bid to identify and tackle regional skills shortages in England, 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) have been set up since 2011, allowing local authorities to work with businesses and education providers to promote and develop economic growth in their areas. While these LEPs involve education from primary level upwards, it is further education colleges and their vocational courses which could be the key to closing those skills gaps. 

Across the North East, the LEP has identified a need to improve skills in order to meet the demands of industry in a number of key areas for its local economy, including digital technology, engineering, energy and health. 

While plans are in place to develop career guidance and training across these areas from a young age, it is vocational providers which are currently in a position to make an immediate difference. 

Newcastle College, which offers vocational training across further and higher education, has prioritised skills training in line with LEP findings and was recently praised for its efforts in the latest Newcastle College Ofsted report, which stated that courses offered “are aligned to local employment priorities”. It does this in a number of ways: 

Industry Partnerships 

Newcastle College places itself at the heart of industry and works closely with employers across the North East while developing its courses and curriculum. It seeks to develop courses which will support its students into employment, particularly in skilled areas which employers struggle to fill. 

In many cases, employers accredit and support courses specifically designed in response to a regional demand, a specific skill shortage or a shift within an industry. 

Ensuring that students are being taught the skills that employers are actually looking for will help students progress into employment in the area they’re interested in, whilst supporting the needs of local employers. 

The College also works with employers to provide work experience for its students, giving them invaluable hands-on practice directly within industry. 

Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) 

With access to TDAP, the College is able to develop and accredit its own degree courses, meaning it can respond to industry change and demand almost immediately, adapting its curriculum to align with employer demands. 

This also means that by offering progression for its students from entry level through to degree, individuals can choose a vocational pathway and remain on it with the College, ensuring consistency and expertise. 

Industry Standard Facilities 

A priority of the College has always been to invest in its facilities, aiming to replicate industry standard working environments for students to learn in. 

Across its main campus the College has professional kitchens, recording studios and science labs, a simulated hospital ward and even fully functioning restaurant, salon and spa, all open to the public. Across the region, it also has specialist academies, dedicated to energy, rail engineering, automotive engineering and aviation. 

Earlier this year, the College was awarded The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education in recognition of its commitment to vocational training through its Transport Academy which provides learners with facilities that replicate industry. 

State of the art facilities and real working environments mean that students are able to learn ‘on-the-job’, gaining hands-on experience rather than theory, which gives them an advantage when entering the workforce in 2022. 

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about why vocational education is crucial to filling regional skills shortages in the UK and globally.

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