Looking to the future of skills planning

It is nearly a year since the Department for Education produced guidance on the role and governance of Skills Advisory Panels (SAPs) and an Analytical Toolkit to guide analysis of local skills to inform decision making on skills needs and priorities. Local Enterprise Partnerships and Mayoral Combined Authorities are busy ensuring that their local intelligence systems meet the requirements of the Toolkit and collating their answers to the 120 key questions posed for SAPs in the guidance. ekosgen are supporting clients to achieve this.

Whilst at first look the Analytical Toolkit can appear daunting, for the many LEPs and Mayoral Combined Authorities who already had good systems and processes for labour market intelligence analysis in place, and a robust Board and governance structure for identifying skills priorities, the SAP approach is bringing minor tweaks rather than radical change. For others, consultancy support can help to ensure that a framework is established to capture required data and analysis. The priority is to bring some consistency to the skills analysis being undertaken at local level, and ensure all areas meet minimum standards in the data they analyse and the conclusions they draw.  In Lancashire, we are updating the LMI Toolkit that we previously produced for the Skills Hub (https://www.lancashireskillshub.co.uk/about-us/evidence-base/) to ensure it meets all the SAP requirements, whilst still being tailored to local needs.

While good progress is being made on achieving consistency in the evidence base, a question remains about whether the new Panels are equipped to influence the provision of skills (and therefore the allocation of resources for skills) in the way intended?  Skills Advisory Panels are expected to “advise on, and help implement, funding and investment decisions for local skills and employment provision”, but most of the funding for skills continues to be controlled centrally by the DfE and Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), with very limited local involvement in decision-making.

There are movements towards greater devolution in skills funding, with the Adult Education Budget (AEB) being devolved to MCAs.  We have been working with Manchester City Council and skills providers in the city to help them prepare for devolution by developing an Adult Education and Skills Plan, which will influence how devolved AEB is used.  The Plan, which is due to be launched shortly emphasises the role of adult education in addressing multiple policy agendas - improving productivity; driving social mobility; contributing to improved health and well-being; and improving integration within communities.  Whilst the SAPs are focussed on the skills needs of local employers and economies, the benefits of adult education go beyond higher productivity and employment rates to create healthier, happier and more confident people, with benefits both for individuals and society as a whole.

For further information on this please contact Kirsten Powell on 0845 644 3023 or Kirsten.powell@ekosgen.co.uk