Social and Economic Research in the West of England LEP Area
The research provides evidence from a skills needs survey conducted with businesses across the West of England with Local Enterprise Partnership which will support the skills and training program.
Wavehill conducted a survey in the spring of 2020 both online and by phone. The research initially was conducted from January to March and involved companies with more than three employees in all sectors of the West of England area. However, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic it was no longer possible to continue with the research, so the survey was suspended with 201 responses collected.
A second investigation period was then started in the summer of 2021 with the research documenting changes after the pandemic.
The data provided by this second investigation, which compared the needs of companies before and after the pandemic, are discussed in this report.
The key findings are:
- Firmographics: 50% of the workers surveyed came from Bristol, 19% from South Gloucestershire, 17% from Bath and North East Somerset and 14% from North Somerset. The size of enterprises ranges from 22% having less than 10 employees, 56% having between 10-49 employees and 2% having between 50 and 250 employees. The average is 43.9 full-time employees per company.
- Vacancies: In the 12 months before the pandemic, 88% of companies had at least one vacancy, with on average 6 vacancies per company. In the smallest sample that responded after the pandemic, the average number of vacancies was over 11 and 92% of these companies had a vacancy in the last 12 months. Similarly, the density of vacancies rose from 11% before the pandemic to 24% after, this highlights the tight labour market.
- Training: Pre Covid, 66% of the companies surveyed had a training budget for workers. 81% of respondents said that before the Covid pandemic their staff had undergone training in the last year. As for the training budget, the percentage of companies whose staff has been trained in the last year increases with the size of the company.
- Research, training and education institutions: Respondents before Covid were asked questions about their relationships with schools, colleges and academic institutions. Just over 37% of businesses had some connection with academic institutions or organizations. Of these, 46% offered internships and 39% have undergraduate programs with academic institutions. 39% of the companies surveyed had links with schools or colleges to support the development of employability in young people. Finally, half of the enterprises have had relationships with independent training providers which make them the most popular among the various forms of training.
- Recruitment: Most of the companies interviewed pre Covid recruit new employees primarily using third party recruitment sites with their own website being a secondary source; 33% use LinkedIn and 43% word of mouth. Only a tenth recruit from universities and colleges, while almost a quarter use recruitment agencies. Other responses included use of the organization’s newsletter, open days, and industry-specific platforms.
- Apprenticeships: 40% of the companies interviewed pre Covid are involved in apprenticeship levy, 58% receive levy funds and 35% are levy payers. Of those involved, 41% offered apprenticeship straining. Most pre pandemic businesses hire apprentices to recruit new staff and support young people. After the pandemic, fewer companies reported using apprentices as a means of recruitment.
- Technical & Digital Skills: Companies were asked which occupational groups they considered most affected by the need to acquire new skills and knowledge. The spread took place in various areas of employment, but technical and associate professionals, sales and customer service, professional occupations and skilled trades were highest. This highlights that technical skills lacking from candidates to vacancies.
- Environment: The pre Covid survey asked some questions about the environment and sustainability to assess the importance of training needs in this area. Managers of all companies surveyed promoted sustainability through recycling, reducing travel and promoting sustainable transport. However, it has also been reported by 9% of organizations that their managers do not promote clean growth and sustainability. 54% of companies reported that they provide courses and training on sustainability. 59% of respondents pre Covid said that the lack of skills and knowledge of the topic has limited to some extent their ability to operate sustainably.
- Covid-19: Most companies have reported having to rotate or adapt their approach in some way to respond to the pandemic. For 35% the changes would require new skills or retraining for staff. Training needs following Covid are higher than this across the UK. Skills for Health claims that 72.2% of UK companies say that training needs have increased due to the pandemic.
- Hospitality & Tourism: The hospitality and tourism sector has been seriously affected by the pandemic. In the end very few respondents responded, reflecting the lack of skills they had to engage with such research. However, this section includes references to some of the skills needs and labour shortages.
In their final remarks several businesses reported that they had not heard of the Local Enterprise Partnership or Skills Support for the Workforce:
“I was not aware of the Skills Support for the Workforce programme or the West of England LEP. This interview is the most I have ever spoken to anyone about training needs”.
The full Social and Economic Research in the West of England LEP Area can be downloaded here