OECD project on leveraging training and skills development in SMEs

Thanks to Anne Green, Chair of the Observatory’s Economy & Labour Force Group, for contributing this post.

Logos of University of Warwick and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and DevelopmentResearchers at the University of Warwick—Anne Green from the Institute for Employment Research and Laura Martinez-Solano from Warwick Manufacturing Group—are involved in an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Local Employment and Economic Development Programme project on leveraging training and skills development in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

This is an international project focusing on analysis of SMEs in a selected territory.

SMEs are an important component in regional and national economies, and the project aims to identify training and skills development policies that promote growth, job creation and innovation.

The project is intended to inform OECD policy advice on how governments can best support SMEs in their skills development activities.

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Environmental technologies skills in the West Midlands seminar roundup

Two workers install solar panels on a red roof

The Observatory held an event on 20th January 2010 to present findings from their environmental technologies skills review, which determined:

  • The relative importance of these industries to the regional economy and the profile of the workforce by gender, ethnicity, age and qualification attainment
  • Key developments in the sector, potential market opportunities and drivers of skills change
  • Current and potential labour and skill needs and any gaps and shortages
  • Investment in training and up-skilling by employers
  • The use of publicly funded, private sector and internally run training and any gaps or weaknesses in provision
  • Recommendations and actions to address any issues identified

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Investment in higher level skills needed to kick start the region’s recovery

Person sat next to computer screens at Serious Games Institute, Coventry UniversityInvestment in higher level skills is vital to kick start the region’s recovery from recession but the proportion of the workforce qualified to degree level or above is well below the national average, particularly in the private sector.

New research (pdf, 258kb) by the West Midlands Regional Observatory shows that overall investment in skills and training is holding up despite the recession.

In the first quarter of 2009, three quarters of manufacturing firms and 80% of service sector firms were planning to either increase or maintain levels of spending on training despite the recession – in both cases the second highest proportion in England.

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April 2009 briefing on economic downturn’s impact on skills and labour market in the West Midlands

Briefing coverThe West Midlands Regional Observatory has produced its third quarterly briefing monitoring the impact of the economic downturn on skills and the labour market.

The overall picture is one of continued decline but with the first tentative indications of some improvement. This is reflected in the decreases in the rate of job losses expected, at least in the service sector.

It is also notable that over 60% of firms are maintaining their investment in training budgets at present levels.

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New research on labour market and training experiences of older workers in the West Midlands

lsc-older-workers-reportResearch commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council shows that employers in the West Midlands are increasingly aware of the benefits of older job applicants when searching for recruits with personal qualities such as loyalty, experience and reliability.

Other perceived advantages include practical issues such as better retention, fewer training needs, and fewer family and childcare commitments.

There are nearly one million people aged over 50 still of normal working age in the West Midlands, out of a total population of more than five million.

The study, Labour Market and Training Experiences of Older Workers in the West Midlands (PDF, 800kb), aims to inform future learning and skills policy so that the regional economy derives maximum benefit from this age cohort and individuals in it have access to opportunities that enable them to continue to fulfil their potential.

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Investment in skills critical to survive the downturn

Continued investment in training and skills is key for business survival in the current economic downturn, according to new research released by the West Midlands Regional Observatory .

The Regional Skills Assessment for 2008 reports that in the five year period from 2003 to 2007, increased investment in skills and training significantly reduced skills shortages in the region. This meant that employers could more easily access the skills they needed to develop and grow.BMW assembly line

Historically, the West Midlands has lagged behind the rest of England in terms of skills performance, but statistics show that from 2003 to 2007 the performance gap reduced from six percentage points to less than one per-cent.

Much of this improvement was due to a strong upturn in the number of employers investing in staff training, through apprenticeship programmes and initiatives such as the Learning & Skills Council’s Train to Gain service.
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Regional Skills Assessment 2008: key issues for employers

We produce the Regional Skills Assessment each year, providing commentary on the changing labour market in the West Midlands to inform the work of a wide range of organisations. This post highlights key issues for employers arising from our skills assessment work this year.

Over the last five years there has been a significant shift in the balance of employment from manufacturing to services:

  • There has been significant new job creation in private sector services such as business & professional services, retail, hotels & catering and in public sector services such as health & social care, education and public administration. Continue reading