The last twelve months have seen COVID-19 impact in ways we could never have imagined. No one can fail to be shocked by the stories of how the virus has devastated lives, communities, businesses and places, but perhaps at the same time we are also inspired and thankful for the efforts of those on the front-line who have kept essential services functioning.
Recently, I ‘attended’ The graduate labour market post COVID-19: priorities for university careers services and the role of universities, employers and government in preparing students event, hosted by the Westminster Higher Education Forum. With the economic crisis presenting new challenges for many young people seeking employment, including graduates, here is what I found out:
I’m a little late in reading Janesville: An American Story, Amy Goldstein’s tale of an industrial Wisconsin town in the depths of the Great Recession. The book received wide praise when published in 2017, telling the story of a community trying to pick itself up in the years following the closure of a major General Motors assembly plant. But the story has particular resonance now, as we stand on the cusp of another wave of economic upheaval. Here are three reflections.
The aim of the Future Ready Skills Commission (FRSC), sponsored by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, is to develop a blueprint for an education and skills system that can deliver against local economic priorities, the fulfilment of individual potential and the promotion of inclusive growth.
Together with FRSC, YU organised a roundtable in October to inform the evidence gathering stage of the review. The meeting was hosted by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, Professor Tim Thornton, and attended by senior representatives from each of YU’s twelve member institutions, as well as commissioners and the secretariat from the FRSC.
Yesterday I attended the annual conference of the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), in Leeds, entitled, ‘Transforming Lives Through Innovation’. The previous day I was at the White Rose Consortium’s Industrial Strategy ‘Working in Partnership’ final conference, which showcased the contribution of the social sciences to meeting industrial strategy opportunities and challenges. The timing of the two conferences came a matter of hours after the first of four speeches by the Universities Minister, Chris Skidmore, setting out how the Government intends to achieve its ‘2.4% R&D/innovation investment’ target by 2027.
Guest blog by Claire Newhouse, Head of Apprenticeships and Skills, Leeds Trinity University
Degree apprenticeships present an opportunity for universities to contribute directly towards improving productivity by increasing the number of people in local and regional economies with higher-level skills. They offer a new income stream for universities, but they also provide a means for diversifying HE entrants. The dual role for apprenticeships, as a mechanism for boosting productivity and enhancing social mobility, is not without tension, although it can, at times, be taken for granted by government.
Guest blog by Professor Tim Thornton, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Huddersfield
One of the key strengths of the Leeds City Region is its unique concentration of world-class universities, and the diverse contributions that each makes towards the higher-level skills and innovation agendas. As part of the wider Yorkshire region, Leeds City Region can rightly-claim to be a ‘skills magnet’, which is able to attract new forms of inward investment and act as a seedbed for regeneration and growth.
The Higher Education Commission’s seventh inquiry is examining how Degree Apprenticeships (DAs) are being implemented. In 2015, the Government committed itself to overseeing the creation of three million new apprenticeships by 2020, and the development of DAs is seen as an important element of this policy. The reforms surrounding DAs, which combine workplace experiences with HE study, offer the opportunity for an apprentice to gain a full degree by the end of the apprenticeship.
Degree apprenticeships are an innovative means of widening access to learning, achieving higher-level and more work-relevant skills, and are therefore a crucial element in the drive to increase productivity. Degree apprenticeships also boost social mobility and underpin efforts to promote inclusion by enabling students to ‘earn while they learn’. They offer higher life-time earnings than most degrees, and can help narrow the employment gap between more affluent and less-advantaged graduates. They generate positive spill-overs for other degree courses and they are a vital mechanism for boosting parity of esteem between vocational and academic study. In summary, they are an excellent idea, and they are emerging at just the right time.