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Progressing from labour market intelligence to HE level provision that is well supported by employers

Lead Institution: University of Exeter
Collaborating with: Petroc College, Weymouth College, Plymouth University, University of Bath, University of the West of England

Project Summary

This research project developed a range of initiatives at the institutional level that sought to engage engineering employers in HE level provision more effectively and sustainably. Web links to the six sub-projects carried out at four universities and two further education colleges in the South West as part of this overall project can be found towards to bottom right of this page.

Universities and employers potentially stand to gain many benefits from closer engagement. Indeed Universities and Further Education Colleges (FECs) already support a wide range of successful employer

Project partner meeting

Project partner meeting

engagement activity.  The nature of the collaboration that exists between employers and universities is varied and includes: applied research in advanced technologies, in-company up-skilling of employees, bespoke collaborative degree programmes, science park developments, enterprise education, entrepreneurial support for staff and students, higher-level apprenticeships, and skills development of post-doctoral staff.

Research on HE-employer engagement emphasises the heterogeneity of the workforce development market - that it is not a single market but multiple markets, with differing requirements and responses (Bolden et al, 2008). The market for workforce development is thus complex and unpredictable.  The policy environment for Higher Education (HE), following the Lambert Review (2003) and Leitch Review (2006), placed a greater requirement on Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to understand better the demand for higher skills training from the adult, employed market.


Marchmont Observatory

Marchmont Observatory

This project therefore began from the premise that institutional knowledge of employer demand is often inadequate.  The project thus aimed to:

  • identify the key drivers (from the viewpoint of employers and employees in the engineering sector) for effective and sustainable engagement with HE level provision;
  • identify the barriers that employers in the engineering sector face in engaging with HEIs and the risks associated with planning STEM provision based on employer engagement;
  • identify the mechanisms by which institutions can more effectively sustain their relationships with engineering employers over the longer term.

It did this through:

  • reviewing the nature and impact of existing processes of employer engagement;
  • developing new approaches to employer engagement and embedding these within HEIs in the South West;
  • providing some detailed intelligence about employer demand for workforce development provision;
  • sharing practice and lessons learned between project partners; and
  • disseminating and evaluating case studies and tools for employer engagement. 

Staff involved

Chris Evans
Project lead, University of Exeter

Hilary Todd
Project coordinator, University of Exeter

Cerian Ayres
Petroc College

Dr Barrie Cooper
University of Exeter

Dr Ross Kay
Weymouth College

Hilary Stevens
University of Exeter

Mark Stone
Plymouth University

Suzanne Maxwell
University of Bath

Wendy Fowles-Sweet
University of the West of England

Sub projects: