The Government’s Leitch Review of Skills recommends that 40% of the workforce should be operating at higher skills levels (Level 4 and above). Research indicates that the figure for employers in some sectors is approximately 30%.
In response to this differential, some of the Sector Skills Councils are developing a Higher Level Skills Strategy which aims to build and sustain ‘fit for purpose’ collaborative network models for greater employer engagement with Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). These collaborative networks will enable HEIs and employer to clearly identify routes to learning, which meet their requirements for a range of higher skills.
Large employers such as police, health service and others have built up relationships with Higher Education over a number of years. These relationships have had beneficial effects such as providing students with work placements during their studies, and opportunities for the HEI and employer to learn from each other – the employer is able to make use of academic research and cutting edge modelling to provide a better product / service; the HEI is able to utilise the proximity of the employer to ensure that the academic learning is grounded in ‘real-life practice / reality’.
A Higher Level Skills Strategy needs to build on the following principles:
Higher Education programmes utilise work based learning delivery processes that integrate high standard academic input and Quality Assurance with learning outcomes that relate to and impact on the work performance of the individual in the context of their employers business
Flexible, credit based, modular delivery mechanisms of work based learning
Processes and procedures for the accreditation of in company higher skills/knowledge programmes are easy to access for employers
Development frameworks which support career pathways and progression routes, linked where appropriate to professional membership schemes
Effective entry/acceptance and induction processes for mature learners to enable entry to higher level academic learning.
Undergraduate programmes that prepare graduates for the world of work, including accreditation of appropriate work placements / industrial experience.
– Funding body models are clear and easy to understand for employers. Ensuring that Higher Education funding is provided to project bids which have clear, auditable, explicit employer engagement.
Skills for innovation are integral to higher level skills programmes
Blended learning processes that enable the widest possible employer/employee participation
To deliver the Higher Level Skills Strategy, employers and Sector Skills Council need to work with HEIs and Higher Education Subject Centres in conjunction with Regional Development Agencies, to develop new work-based learning approaches to course delivery that meet a range of employer requirements for a highly skilled workforce.