World Class Workforce

With a vision of a world class workforce in Exeter & the Heart of Devon, the Employment and Skills Board is an agile, productive, effective and employer-led organisation which believes that every individual matters.

Our priorities were initially identified by employers working with facilitators, funders and providers. These have more recently have been borne out by the Exeter & Heart of Devon Skills Plan Evidence Base paper researched and written by Ben Neild from the Marchmont Observatory at the University of Exeter in July 2015.

We are acutely aware that there is much to do. We have sought to  focus on actions and influence and not to spread our efforts too thinly. Our priorities include but are not confined to the potential skills priorities identified in the Exeter & Heart of Devon Skills Plan Evidence summarised below:

Improving Information Advice and Guidance

Potential Skills Priorities – “The quality of careers advice and guidance in schools and colleges continues to be widely criticised and, according to some, to be overly influenced by the needs of the institutions competing to attract a falling number of young people … there is a need to encourage employers, particularly in strategically important sectors, to become involved in providing careers talks, workplace visits, work experience, curriculum enrichment…”

Action – Improving Information Advice and Guidance is an action for us all as individuals, employers, schools, careers professionals, parents etc. The EHOD Employment and Skills Board:

  • Contributed to the development of the Careers Education Information Advice and Guidance standards commissioned by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership in particular to the assurance that advice is independent of the provider
  • Are working with Industrial Cadets and Education Business Partnership South West to pilot accredited one week World Class Work Experience Placements at Silver Level (30 hours) with un-paralleled opportunities for a group of pilot schools
  • Continue to work on the Rugby Empowering Employment Programme (REEP) and are developing the Business Empowering Employment Programme (BEEP) to help young people who have experienced difficulty finding their way with work or training. REEP and BEEP both combine an intensive 10 day programme where individuals explore and reflect on their skills, talents and ambitions with a transition to work supported by volunteer trained mentors.

Linking local people to local job creation

Potential Skills Priorities – “Although Exeter is growing and creating a wide range of job opportunities, EHOD still contains high levels of unemployment and deprivation … Measures that enable people who are out-of-work to benefit from new employment opportunities arising from developments in [and around] the city or in growing sectors with recruitment difficulties should be supported…”

Action – We believe that every individual matters. To this end we value and work with local councils, Third Sector partners, statutory organisations and others driven by the fact that we must do ‘the right thing’ and tackle the ‘difficult nuts to crack’ as well as the ‘low hanging fruit’. EHOD ESB :

  • Focused on employment and skills development around construction by researching and recommending that local councils align their planning and procurement policies to ensure that developers provide local employment and skills development opportunities. Implementation through the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) Client Based Approach is currently being sought
  • Bid for and used European Local Response Funding to pilot Customer Service Training in preparation for Rugby World Cup 2015 in Exeter as a model for a burgeoning ‘event tourism’ sector as the sector seeks to diversify. 256 participants received free training and 79% voluntarily undertook City & Guilds Level 2 accreditation
  • Help young people who have experienced difficulty finding their way with work or training through REEP (and now BEEP) which receive referrals from JobCentre Plus, Careers South West, St Loyes and other organisations. REEP exemplified collaborative working and has made a positive difference to the lives of participants.

Growing the number of apprenticeships

Potential Skills Priorities – “Government is committed to growing the number of apprenticeship starts to 3 million in the next parliament… Advanced, Higher-level and Degree Apprenticeships in strategic and highly productive sectors, and apprenticeships that help young people to make the transition from school-to-work are of particular value.”

Action – Developing the ‘right’ apprenticeship mix is our focus. Helping small businesses offer and benefit from apprenticeships and  linking new employment opportunities with apprenticeships is our aim, rather than increasing apprenticeships those with low wages or limited progression opportunities.  The EHOD Employment and Skills Board:

  • Hosted the National Apprenticeship Week Exeter and the Heart of Devon Summit at River Cottage to bring together local councils and experts for an Apprenticeship Update
  • Hosted the National Apprenticeship Week Employer Engagement Evening at River Cottage that opened with an interactive hour of discussion and which included a range of topics from micro business considering employing apprentices for the first time, through to major employers wishing to combat their ageing workforce through an investment in younger people and more apprentices
  • Are piloting a ‘carousel approach’ Level 2 or 3 in Digital Marketing Apprenticeship. Lead by Cosmic apprentices will experience work with a range of host employers. The hypothesis is that model  will appeal to smaller businesses who do not wish or cannot provide a full-time apprenticeship and advantage the apprentices who will have experience in a number of sectors with a range of employers
  • Are promoting , wherever possible, South West Apprenticeships, which employs construction apprentices who then work for a number of contractors in a similar way to the carousel approach pilot model. Construction is a particularly important sector for EHOD
  • Promoted opportunities, initiatives and local success stories through social media such as the local National Apprenticeship Week winners and Vocational Employer Awards, and apprenticeship vacancies.

Addressing low levels of progression into Higher Education

Potential Skills Priorities – “The proportion of young people living in EHOD who progress into higher education is surprisingly low … outreach activity needs to start early in school careers , to enable choices to be made , to raise aspirations and develop ideas about the relationship between study and future careers.”

Action – Young people in Devon are less likely to progress into Higher Education, including to Russell Group and top third Higher Education Institutions, than the UK average. Given EHOD’s strategy of knowledge intensive growth and the presence of the University of Exeter ranked 6th in the UK, this is concerning. The EHOD ESB:

  • Works with organisations like Education Business Partnership South West,  Careers South West,  and the University of Exeter which reach out to bridge the gap and fly the flag for greater progression to Higher Education.  We promote and where possible contribute to these important endeavours
  • Mantra of creating a local World Class Workforce where every individual matters raises the aspirations of our employer, provider, funder and facilitator members and the young people that they influence
  • Work with Industrial Cadets and Education Business Partnership South West to pilot accredited one week World Class Work Experience Placements at Silver Level (30 hours) with un-paralleled opportunities will, we hope, raise aspirations and encourage students to stretch their horizons and possibly consider progression to Higher Education
  • Encouraged the retention of the Big Bang South West  event, which is attended by 2000 young people from the South West, at the University of Exeter for 2016 and 2017.
Graduate Retention

Potential Skills Priorities – “EHOD attracts and trains a large pool of young talent, the bulk of which leaves the area once their studies are complete. We need to find better ways of taking advantage of the skills that young people bring to the area.”

Action – Our aspiration of  a local World Class Workforce combined with our role in ‘Innovation Exeter’ initiative and the focus on higher level and specialist skills within local Economic Development strategies will, we hope, improve graduate retention but there is still much more to do.  So far the EHOD Employment and Skills Board:

  • Promoted the University of Exeter’s ‘Careers in the South West Campaign’ through social media and by encouraging our local employers to contribute to the event held at the University of Exeter
  • Identified the need for earlier exposure to undergraduates of local employment opportunities to compete with national and international corporates who woo undergraduates from year one
  • Promoted the University of Exeter’s ‘Work Shadow Scheme’ through Social Media
  • Invited current undergraduates to the ‘Unlocking Big Data – Investing in Human Capital’ event at the Met Office to gather their input and so that they had the opportunity to meet with local Big Data employers
  • Contribute to initiatives like Innovation Exeter and the Impact Lab.
Higher level and technical skills to support smart specialisation

Potential Skills Priorities – “Strategic leaders have recently made a commitment to developing Exeter as a national centre for data analytics … Corporate capacity to understand digital data about consumer behaviour or machine efficiency, for example, has become critical to competitive advantage …however, all this data is useless, unless we have the skills to turn it in to action.”

Action – This priority complements several others. If we improve Information, Advice and Guidance, encourage Advanced, Degree and Higher-level apprenticeships, increase progression in to Higher Education, and improve Graduate Retention the development of a national centre, if not an international centre, for data analytics will be far more achievable as will other areas of smart specialization.The EHOD Employment and Skills Board:

  • Has organized and hosted an ‘Unlocking Big Data – Investing in Human Capital’ interactive event at the Met Office focusing on the people and skills needed to exploit the opportunities of the ‘new oil’. The intelligence and interest gathered has informed decision making and linked with developments with the Science Park , Innovation Exeter and other related events
  • Contributed to the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership’s Digital Skills, SW Digital Forum,  Impact Lab, and Open Data Institute Devon events.
  • Promoted events and news related to higher level and technical skills supporting smart specialisations using social media.

You can read the EHOD Skills Plan Evidence Base here or look at the Skills Strategy Evidence Presentation here.


Exeter and Heart of Devon – Employment and Skills Board is an independent body and voice for employers, aiming to improve employment across Devon and beyond.

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