How Vocational Education is the Helping to Fill Regional Skills Shortages

How Vocational Education is the Helping to Fill Regional Skills Shortages

The UK has had skills shortages across various sectors for many years. Each region has their own issues, with eastern England having a shortage in mechanical engineers, nurses and chefs, for example. With Brexit drawing ever closer, it’s predicted that those skills gaps will further widen as less migrants will be able to fill a number of positions.

In an attempt to tackle such skills shortages, there have been 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) set up in England since 2011. This has allowed 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.

In the North East, it’s been identified by the LEP that there’s a need to improve skills in order to meet the demands of industry in a number of key areas for its local economy, including digital technology, engineering, energy and 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 has a selection of vocational training courses across further and higher education, has prioritised its skills training so that it’s in line with LEP findings. They were recently  praised for its efforts in the latest Newcastle College Ofsted, which stated that courses offered “are aligned to local employment priorities”. It does this in a number of ways:

Industry partnerships

Placing themselves in the heart of an industry, Newcastle College works closely with local employers across while also developing 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.

By making sure students are taught relevant skills, students can progress into employment in the area they’re interested in easier and support the needs of local employers. 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)

Alongside TDAP, the College can develop and accredit its own degree courses. This can allow it to respond to industry change and demand almost immediately, adapting its curriculum to align with employer demands. This also means that by offering progression for its students from entry level through to degree, individuals can choose a vocational pathway and remain on it with the College, ensuring consistency and expertise.

Industry standard facilities

The College has always prioritised investing in its facilities as it aims to replicate industry standard working environments for students to learn in. Across its main campus the College has professional kitchens, recording studios and science labs, a simulated hospital ward and even fully functioning restaurant, salon and spa, all open to the public. Across the region, it also has specialist academies, dedicated to energy, rail engineering, automotive engineering and aviation.

Earlier this year, the College gained The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education in recognition of its commitment to vocational training through its Transport Academy which provides learners with facilities that replicate industry.

By offering state of the art facilities and real working environments, students are gifted the opportunity to learn ‘on-the-job’ and gain vital hands-on experience rather than theory, which gives them an advantage when entering the workforce.



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