Economic research shows Sheffield City Region (SCR) is closing a long-term productivity and skills gap, aiming to reach a £55billion economy by 2040 through the creation of 70,000 additional jobs and a shift towards higher skilled occupations.
This will contribute substantially to the North of England’s ambition to boost the Northern Powerhouse economy by an extra £97billion GVA and 850,000 more jobs by 2050.
Meeting these targets depends on increasing the number of workers with higher level STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills. With fewer than 1,000 potential applicants qualified to apply for the 5,777 current vacancies at a higher technical level, and increasing demand projected, a significant step change in higher skills provision is needed.
Towards a more unified education and skills system
For over a century and a half, a sharp distinction between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ education routes have existed, with government policy still favouring the former. This though, has a detrimental impact on the ability to ‘apply’ academic thinking and innovation quickly within the workplace along with availability of the vocational technical skills employers need to increase performance and productivity.
And it will become more acute as the technologically-advancing world in which we live progresses.
Higher and Degree Apprenticeships present an opportunity to redress the balance and play a pivotal role to help businesses thrive. Through the combination and application of academic and technical skills, new recruits or existing employees looking to upskill can make a real and immediate return to the business.
What is Sheffield Hallam University doing?
Our aim is a joined-up education and skills system to meet both employer and individual aspiration and ambition. We do this by working closely with economic partners and nurturing strong working relationships with SCR employers and education providers alike, ensuring our provision is aligned to projected economic growth and high level skills needs and enabling access and progression opportunities for all, with specific support for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, we work with the SCR FE colleges to deliver the Healthcare Assistant Practitioner foundation degree, with students then able to progress to SHU for allied health or nursing degrees. We have developed an ambitious Employability Plan delivered through the curriculum and our careers service helps students gain the key skills employers are looking for, through volunteering, part-time work and work experience, being a course representative or mentoring.
We have developed over 150 new employer partnerships, in addition to those established with national and regional employers including Nestle UK and Ireland, JCB and Kier Group and our HDA portfolio continues to grow, with 1,000 apprentices anticipated on programmes in 2018/19.