Labour Market Development

A Means to Regenerate A Region

This text is derived from one specifically relating to Grimsby Institute (the renamed Grimsby College), but here is generalised and made slightly more critical of the concept.

The concept of regional social economy is a supply side monitoring and action approach to human capital that does not "leave it to the market".
The idea is that through training the workforce in a semi-planned and proactive manner economic regeneration is facilitated. Under New Labour the UK has developed a plethora of bodies that education providers must approach for funding, and this is changing the shape of FE Colleges especially. The centre of this is training provision by a "CoVE".
A core programme of Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) is supported by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA), the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). Any Further Education training provider expanding local economic connections and providing vocational training must directly develop towards CoVE requirements to be one of the expected network of 400 CoVEs across post 16 providers by March 2006. In order to know what is required, an FE department with the role of seeking this expansion must research, by strong collaboration with labour demand organisations (employers), to respond to and develop the economic specialities of the region and to broaden economic boundaries with a skilled workforce.
Regeneration in a region is bound to be related to the economy already in existence, which south of the Humber means import and export sectors, energy, steel, foodstuffsand new areas like interactive media. This area includes general areas like construction, gas/ plumbing and catering. Any area needs a continuing emphasis on broad skills in literacy, number and ICT and this at levels appropriate to employers. There is also a need to think - higher education providing people with the mental resources to understand, summarise and develop strategies, but it is unclear whether the CoVE concept can ever stretch to this need.

The further requirement is, through acquiring information (therefore research among the employers), to be ahead of the game, to prevent labour shortages at growth points and so facilitate that growth. Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) are involved in carrying out Labour Market Information but a developed educational provider has the means to carry this through itself (if in consultation) as continuing Project Development research.

The process is this:
  • Consultative research and Labour Market Information to identify the skills priority
    • This means economic growth and opportunity areas
    • The FE college and other 16+ education body assessing how it can be a provider
      • This means existing facilities, new facilities
      • It also means its staff recruitment, training and employment
  • Costing
  • Consultation especially with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) prior to a proposal
  • Making a proposal to the LSC
    • Also the knowledge of the other training involved bodies
      • e.g. The Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) for ad hoc support
  • Having it processed by the LSC (regionally and nationally moderated)
  • Required changes made to the proposal
  • Having it accepted by the LSC and Grimsby Institute becoming a CoVE for this proposal
  • Achieving funding (and assessment after a year for a three year funding) from the LSC
  • Any support from Specialist Development Groups (SDGs) (on to which the CoVE sits) set up by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA)
The stronger the research arm of a provider the better it can impress the LSC for funding each time and therefore expand its provision. It must surely be involved in developing best practice approaches and CoVE policy, and can then become the essential part of the matrix of supported regional development.
In addition the CoVE concept has to be marketed back to employers to demonstrate its usefulness and establish a virtuous circle of regeneration through labour markets.
The CoVE is part of the landscape of making education bodies fit the market economy, rather than seeing education as an end in itself. Thinking is also valuable to the economy, but it should be seen as something of value itself.
The CoVE also becomes a means by which an FE college or any other body can carry out a bureaucratic purpose: its self survival and expansion. Where funding appears, institutions that are public corporations will pursue, so that there is a public market economy of largely undemocratic yet community located bodies pursuing aims set down elsewhere, ultimately set by an economy orientated government. Another government may reject the public market economy approach (to leave it to the market) for public spending reasons if no other, and one day there might be the more enlightened approach of value in education itself.


Adrian Worsfold