Skills Support for the Workforce

South East Midlands Skills Survey 2020

10th Dec 2020 Skills Support for the Workforce

Research Identifies the Skills needs of South East Midlands businesses

A research report has been published for South East Midlands setting out the recommendations for delivering training that meets the needs of local employers.

The research has been commissioned as part of the Skills Support for the Workforce Programme which Serco’s Employment, Skills & Enterprise business manage in South East Midlands and which is co-financed by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and the European Social Fund. The ESFA commissioned Serco to conduct research to understand employers’ skills needs in South East Midlands and South East Midlands as part of the Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) skills planning.

The findings of the research provided recommendations for training providers and others working in the skills environment to consider as part of their future planning for skills delivery in South East Midlands in order that it meet current employer needs. 

The employer survey was launched in February 2020 – it was evident that employers were focusing upon their Covid-19 response, therefore despite the survey being open for an extended period of time, and significant promotion by intermediaries, there was limited response from employers. As a result, and due to the questionnaires being very similar and the geographic areas in close proximity, the survey results from South East Midlands employers were amalgamated with responses from employers in Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire.

The key findings are:

  • The research shows substantial skills gaps in South East Midlands, particularly in digital, sales and marketing, complex analytical and job-specific skills across engineering, manufacturing, legal and contractual. Gaps most commonly cited by employers as impacting upon business growth and productivity included those in digital, technical or practical and sales and marketing.
  • There is demand for upskilling and recruitment amongst employers in South East Midlands, including within the area’s priority sectors. One in five employers reported that, in the last twelve months, they had a hard to fill vacancy. The most common reason for this was perceived applicant quality – sub-optimal skills, attitude or motivation for the job. Employers predicted that in the next three to five years they would need greater numbers of staff with digital and technical / practical skills. Stakeholders envisaged growing opportunities and skills needs in manufacturing, health and social care, construction, and logistics.
  • The research shows interest amongst half of South East Midlands employers in taking on an apprentice in the future. However, there are widespread reservations to overcome i.e. on candidate quality, reassuring employers who have had a poor previous experience. A sizeable minority of employers did not have a good understanding of apprenticeships. Wider stakeholders suggested employer education is required around the value of apprenticeships (in particular compared to other educational routes), and the range of sectors in which apprenticeships can now be delivered
  • There is willingness amongst a majority of employers to invest in training for their staff that uses new technologies such as webinars, video and mobile learning, with many employers saying their staff have already engaged in training via one or more of these new technologies. Some employers had reservations around accessibility and interactivity, and whether online mechanisms are suitable for more practical types of work such as engineering or construction.
  • The majority of employers across South East Midlands and Northamptonshire do not expect that they will need to implement changes- such as upskilling existing staff, dealing with staff leaving and recruiting additional staff- as a result of Brexit. Of those that do expect that they will need to implement changes, only one in four said they are fully prepared. Around one quarter of employers across South East Midlands said they were ‘not prepared at all’ regarding impending changes to employment law, identifying potential skills gaps and dealing with those skills gaps. Employers that acknowledged they were not prepared were disproportionately in the construction sector.

Finally, the research also highlighted some challenges for business support and skills organisations in engaging employers about their skills needs with the current focus of many businesses upon ‘survival’.

Rob Matts, Head of Skills Support for the Workforce said:

“This is a very important piece of research that we are pleased to have been able to deliver for the LEP on behalf of the ESFA. The findings provide first-hand insights from employers that can guide the skills sector in order it meet the training needs of the diverse business community in South East Midlands. I would like to personally thank the businesses, training providers and stakeholders that have taken time to contribute to this important piece of work."

The full report for South East Midlands can be downloaded here

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