From education to employment

Vocational Education is Key to Filling Regional Skills Shortages

The UK has had a problem with skills shortage for a while now. Every region is facing the task of tackling its own skills gaps across a variety of sectors.

Eastern England, for example, is short of nurses, chefs and mechanical engineers. With Brexit drawing ever closer, experts are predicting that the gaps in these skills will continue to widen as less migrants will be available to fill these positions.

In an attempt to identify and tackle such skill shortages across England’s regions, there has been 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) set up since 2011. This allows 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.

The North East LEP has identified that key areas in its local economy that must be improved, including:

  • Digital Technology
  • Engineering
  • Energy
  • 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 been able to prioritise their skills training in line with the LEP findings. 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

The college works closely with employers across the North East in the industry sector while continuing to develop 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.

They are ensuring that students are taught relevant skills that employers are actually seeking so it can help students progress into employment in the area they’re interested in, while also benefiting local employers’ needs.

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)

The College has access to TDAP, therefore is able to develop and accredit its own degree courses. This means it can respond to industry change and demand almost immediately, adapting its curriculum to align with employer demands.

It also means that they can offer progression to students from entry level through to degree, so individuals are able to choose a vocational pathway and remain on it with the College.

Industry Standard Facilities

A main priority remains being able to invest in their facilities so they can replicate industry standard working environments for their students to learn in.

In the college’s main campus, it has professional kitchens, a simulated hospital ward, , recording studios and science labs, and even fully functioning restaurant, salon and spa, which are all open to the public.

Across the region, it also has specialist academies, dedicated to energy, rail engineering, automotive engineering and aviation.

The college was awarded The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education in 2018 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. 

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