Employers must take ownership of the skills agenda to ensure that vocational programmes reflect what industry really wants and needs says Sandra Kelly, Director of UK Skills and Policy at People 1st International.
Writing for FEWeek, Kelly says the importance of an employer-led ethos really hit home when they invited the head of the Food Teachers Centre (a 5,000-strong self-help group for secondary-school teachers) to one of their quarterly Hospitality Skills & Quality Board meetings.
People 1st set up the meeting to exchange ideas to address the drastically reduced number of students on food-related courses at schools, which is set to have a profound impact on the talent pipeline, apprenticeships and full-time college hospitality and catering courses.
Many were very surprised to learn that fewer than 50,000 students in the UK are now taking GCSE Food Preparation and Nutrition – 50 per cent less than a decade ago.
Budget cuts and the new Ofsted inspection framework offer nothing to guarantee food education. This challenge is amplified by the fact that hospitality and tourism have one of the highest levels of skills gap of any sector.
It is estimated that by 2024, they will need to recruit an additional 1.3 million people (‘People & Productivity’, People 1st report, 2017).
The employer-led approach at the heart of this initiative highlights the need to encompass the whole talent pipeline and there’s no reason why this approach can’t be applied elsewhere.
Kelly says that FE colleges, for example, could be invited to meet with employer-led boards in other sectors where curriculums are being delivered. Influencing and collaborating with employers who are actively investing in apprenticeships and further education in their workplaces can only be a positive move forward.
The People 1st employer-led college accreditation board is an approach that can be taken in other sectors too. Similarly, the partnership they have established with the AA for the AA College Restaurant of the Year award for student-run college restaurants is an idea that can be replicated in other sectors.
More initiatives like these need to be setup to give colleges an opportunity to be creative and really stretch the boundaries of what’s possible.
We need to capitalise on the energy and passion of committed employers Kelly said. This means not only unearthing what’s happening to their talent pipeline, but also taking collective responsibility to finding a sustainable solution.
Skills shortages are predominantly one of the biggest challenges currently facing the UK economy.