ETF-supported national conference explores UK skills gap solutions

A national conference brought together leaders in business, education, academia and policy in Leeds last week and generated debate about improving technical and vocational education.

UCL Institute of Education (IOE), a world leading centre for research and teaching in education and social science organised the event supported by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF). Working with hosts with the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (WYCC), delegates were encouraged to discuss experiences of working with employers to determine how future actions could close the higher skills gap that exists across the UK.

In particular, the conference explored ways to improve technical and vocational education in the context of devolved regional planning. A panel discussion sparked questions and comments about how to build better partnership working between employers and educators.

The ultimate aim of the conference and the underpinning research behind it is to enhance regional skills planning and delivery in order to improve productivity, and work towards closing the skills shortage that exists in the UK

Providing insight from the other side of the Pennines, Leader of Trafford Council, Councillor Sean Anstee addressed the room. He described how training providers and employers were becoming more aligned through strong partnership models in Greater Manchester.

He said, “We’re always switched on and listening to what our companies are saying to us… working together the Northern Powerhouse will be want we want it to be.

The event also featured presentations from the ETF’s Neil Bates and Julie Gibbings.

Neil, ETF Associate Director for Professional and Technical Education, spoke about T-levels and the future of the sector, while Julie, ETF Head of Teaching Learning and Assessment, gave a presentation on Outstanding Teaching Learning and Assessment (OTLA).

Leeds-based employers KPMG and Robertson Group were part of a panel discussion which examined the benefits and flaws of working with education providers.

Paul Grainger, Co-Director of Centre for (Post 14) Education and Work at IOE said:

“We are working on some significant research into regional skills systems and are particularly interested in the role of national colleges in relation to regional requirements. This conference has given us a very useful insight into the relationships between colleges, employers and regional policy leads and methods to developing higher level technical skills.

“Coming to Leeds allowed us to capture some of the opinions around the Northern Powerhouse. The West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges were supportive and well-connected hosts and Leeds City College Printworks Campus was an excellent choice of venue.

Alison Morris, ETF Director for Sector Development, said:

“We were delighted to be involved with this conference. Regional and national employer-provider partnerships are vital in building a strong and robust technical education system, and the collaboration between the ETF and partner organisations has supported a comprehensive exploration of some of the key issues.”

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