The Local Government Association (LGA) Research & Information Team conducted a survey to capture data on key elements of English local authorities’ employment and skills provision. This included local partnerships, the services being provided, and funding.
Nearly all the councils surveyed reported being in discussions with local employment and skills partners (96 per cent). Seven in ten (71 per cent) were involved in multiple discussions locally convened by others, and 58 per cent convened a local employment and skills board. The level of engagement between local partners and councils on issues related to employment and skills was consistent. All respondents (100 per cent) with an employment and skills provision were working with at least one local partner.
Nearly all the councils surveyed (94 per cent) had some form of employment and skills provision. Employment and skills provision was most commonly structured by running multiple support programmes coordinated by an in-house team (67 per cent). The most common employment and skills provision was for young people at risk of, or not in education, employment, or training (88 per cent). A similar percentage (89 per cent) reported offering traineeships and apprenticeships. Councils which are members of a devolved authority were more likely to engage in ‘skills for business’ (89 per cent) than authorities which were not (63 per cent). The most common organisation group accessing local authority employment and skills provision were local employers. Nine in ten (89 per cent) reported that local 4 employers had accessed their service. Similarly, just under nine in ten (87 per cent) of councils reported unemployed people on out of work benefits accessing their services. Local authorities were asked whether their employment and skills provision achieved any positive outcome. Ninety-five per cent reported they had at least one positive outcome. The two most common positive impacts were supporting local employers (85 per cent) and providing a pathway to further learning or work (82 per cent).
Sixty three per cent of the local authorities which participated in this project reported that the European Social Fund (ESF) was a source of funding for their authority’s employment and skills provision. Councils which are members of a devolved authority were more likely to report receiving support from the ESF (80 per cent) than local authorities which are not (54 per cent). Councils were more likely to report the level of funding they had received from the European Social Fund (ESF) for their employment and skills provision would be greater than the support they will be able to receive from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). Half (50 per cent) answered the funding from the ESF is higher than it would receive from the UKSPF, in comparison to the three in ten (29 per cent) which reported it would be lower. Eighty-six per cent identified at least one issue with changes in funding from ESF to UKSPF. The most common issue identified was being less able to assist people who previously accessed support (49 per cent). Authorities were asked to give how long, in months, the gap would be between receiving UKSPF support after no longer receiving ESF funding. Among the councils which responded to this question or did not say ‘Don’t know’, seven months was the mean amount of time given for the gap. The standard deviation about the mean was five meaning any number from two to 12 is within a normal range. Sixty five per cent reported that UKSPF would be an appropriate source of funding for their employment and skills provision in the 2024/25 financial year. In comparison, thirty per cent responded that it would not be an appropriate funding source.
Local changes in demand
Respondents were asked to explain what changes, if any, they were noticing locally in employment and skills demand. The three key themes taken from the responses to this question include skills shortages, economic inactivity, and funding issues. Some of the primary issues identified in regard to skills shortages, were that there had been an increase in the demand for skills in ‘new’ industries such as five technological, cyber-related, and environmental. However, more established industries, such as hospitality and haulage, were also struggling for skilled workers. Upskilling was also identified as an area where much more could be done. A common issue identified by respondents was that the number of economically inactive people had increased. Respondents also identified some possible explanations for this trend including a lack of variety in training or apprenticeships being offered to young people as well as the incidence of physical and mental health issues. Finally, problems relating to the funding of employment and skills provisions were a key theme. The loss of ESF funding and its replacement with UKSPF has some authorities concerned that they will no longer able to provide the same level of service to local residents when compared to previous years. Furthermore, there was concern about the consequences of less well funded employment and skills services and how it could, for example, result in higher unemployment.
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