1st January 2015

Why does a strategic approach to skills matter?

Gradcore believes that growth strategies cannot succeed without taking the skills of the local population into consideration. This is illustrated in an example given by the IPPR, "if a northern LEP identified a significant opportunity in offshore wind power, and sought to build their capacity in this area, the area would not only need investment in the right infrastructure and a developed supply chain, it would also need an appropriately skilled workforce in areas such as fabrication, marinisation and geo-sciences. Ensuring all these elements are fulfilled requires a clear strategy and a joined-up approach that is able to steer investment."

IPPR continues by stating "The North’s universities are a key asset: they attract large numbers of young people to the area, and make a major contribution to developing the high-skilled workers of the future. There are a number of ways that universities can encourage graduate retention, for example:

  • Encouraging student entrepreneurship: for example through student, postgraduate and staff spin-outs
  • Encouraging students to become more embedded in the area: for example by encouraging students to carry out research projects for local businesses and organisations as part of their studies
  • Links to local business: by building relationships with local firms that might be able to offer work experience, internship and employment opportunities to new graduates.

However, while these activities are likely to help at the margins, the key factors that attract graduates to stay in an area are relevant job opportunities and a pleasant living environment. Indeed, analysis by the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) finds graduates tend to be attracted to large cities, particularly those with a large proportion of other graduates, good public services, good housing and cultural amenities (Cowling 2009).

In conclusion to the statement made by the IPPR, we at Gradcore think a priority needs to be placed on attracting and retaining the graduates we need i.e. the ones with fabrication, marinisation and geo-sciences expertise from the example above, not just focusing on retention per se. We also believe that the focus should not just be on the subject of retension and a shift towards a strategy of utiliatation of exisitng graduates should be implemented.

Read more about retension vs utilisation here.