Andy Durman, Managing Director, Labour Market Insight specialists, Emsi

With the Invitation to Tender for the Prison Education Framework (PEF) now out, education and training providers will be seeking to ensure that their bid not only ticks all the boxes that the assessors are looking for, but that it also goes above and beyond this to stand out from those bids submitted by their competitors.

One of the areas that is likely to mark out a successful bid from an unsuccessful one, is the ability of a provider to demonstrate competence in understanding and identifying the skills needs of employers in a prison area. This was, after all, one of the key areas identified in the Government's White Paper, Prison Safety and Reform, which had this to say about adopting a more localised, data-driven approach to prison education:

“Giving governors greater autonomy over decisions made in prisons will allow them to target training and work in prisons to match more closely the needs of the local labour market ... Governors will be encouraged to work with local employers and use data on the local labour market gaps to choose the right vocational training to help offenders into employment… [my emphasis].”

The ability to understand and respond to local employment demand is therefore not an option, but rather a necessity, which means that it will be crucial for providers to demonstrate their ability to do this in their bids. Yet this is of course easier said than done, and providers might be forgiven for asking how they can achieve this, especially as the issue is not so much one of understanding employer demand, per se, but understanding employer demand specific to the prison region?

Having partnered with a number of organisations in the offender learning space for a number of years, including the likes of Milton Keynes College, the LTE Group and more recently the Ministry of Justice, we have already taken steps to anticipate this question and create a workable solution. The way that our data is modelled means that we are able to identify occupation demand right down to the most granular geographical level (i.e. Local Authority), which then means that we can combine them together to create larger geographical regions. So when the 17 proposed PEF Lots were proposed back in January, we were able to “create” these geographies in our data by combining the relevant counties and/or Local Authorities together.

What this means is that we can identify occupation demand for any one of these Lots, as demonstrated in this interactive. As you will see, we have divided the Lot areas into three categories – regions, high security, and women’s prisons – and divided occupations into three broad areas – Process and elementary; Service and sales; Skilled and managerial. The green bars represent the total number of projected job openings in each of these occupation categories from 2017-2022, and if you hover over any of them, you will see the Top 3 jobs for those regions (please note, we have included only Level 1-3 occupations, and we have omitted those jobs that are considered unsuitable for ex-offenders).

The information in this interactive only scratches the surface, and there is a wealth of insight to be had by delving much further into the details. But hopefully it does give some indication of what is possible for a provider if they were to begin with the Lot areas, and then used the insight to identify the skills which are most needed in the prison region over the next few years.

The application of this for a provider entering the tender process is clear: by demonstrating that they are capable of establishing occupation demand at the Lot region level, those assessing the bid are far more likely to have confidence in that provider’s competence to provide appropriate training that “matches more closely the needs of the local labour market”.

However, the applications go well beyond this. In the new era of PEF, with its focus on giving offenders the best opportunities to get work at the end of their sentence, Labour Market Insight at the level of the Lot region can be used by successful providers in a number of practical ways, including tailoring a curriculum that is appropriate to the needs of employers in the Lot region; better engagement with employers on the basis of a curriculum that is serving their needs; and in careers advice to prisoners that more accurately reflects the needs of the labour market.

In short, good local insight could not only prove key to the success of a contract bid, it may well prove to be invaluable to winning providers as they seek to implement the proposed reforms in ways that benefit prisoners, employers and local communities alike.

Andy Durman, Managing Director, Labour Market Insight specialists, Emsi

You can download a copy of our free guide – Offender Learning Reform: Labour Market Insight for Bidding and Beyond – by clicking here, or view our recent webinar:


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