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State of the Region 2020 Full Report

4. Quality Education

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all

The average Progress 8 score in the West Midlands 7 Met. area has increased from -0.14 in 2018 to -0.08 in 2019. Birmingham was rated as ‘Above Average’; both Solihull and Wolverhampton as ‘Average’; while Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall were deemed ‘Below Average’.

Between the 2018/19 academic year, there were 31,740 apprenticeship starts across the WMCA area, 2,540 more than in 2017/18. This equates to an increase of 8.7%.  Nationally, the number of people participating in an apprenticeship in England, increased by 4.7%. Advanced Level apprenticeships increased by 10.3% compared to the national increase of 5.1% and Higher Apprenticeships increased by 60.7% compared to 55.7% nationally.

The West Midlands 7 Met. area in 2018, had a 10.0% persistent absentee rate at a primary school level, which is above the national average of 8.7%. At a secondary school this figure rises to 14.3% in the West Midlands 7 Met. area, which matches the national trend but is higher than national average of 13.9%. 

There are 861,700 people qualified to NVQ Level 4 in the WMCA area. This is an increase of 4.4% on the previous year or 36,200 people, comparable to the national growth rate of 2.9%. Despite this positive trend, 33.5% of the population are qualified to NVQ Level 4 compared to 40.2% for the UK –a shortfall of 173,249 people. The proportion of WMCA residents with no qualifications increased from 11.0% (283,700) in 2018 to 11.3% (290,500) in 2019. An increase of 6,800 people. The number of women with no qualifications increased from 130,300 to 136,200 (+4.5%), and men increased from 153,400 to 154,400 (+0.7%). Overall, to reach the current UK average (7.9%) requires a further upskilling of 87,115 people.

Education and Skills Research Case Study

Skills Advisory Panels aim to bring together local employers and skills providers to pool knowledge on skills and labour market needs, and to work together to understand and address key local challenges. This includes both immediate needs and challenges and looking at what is required to help local areas adapt to future labour market changes and to grasp future opportunities. This will help colleges, universities and other providers deliver the skills required by employers, now and in the future. Skills Advisory Panels aim to strengthen the capabilities of Local Enterprise Partnerships and Mayoral Combined Authorities, or local areas from hereafter, to carry out high quality analysis which will be used to identify their skills and employment needs and priorities, as well as inform their skills agenda, and improve their economic outcomes. This will assist local areas to develop action plans to address skills issues which, in turn can give more people in the local community access to high quality skills provision that leads to good jobs. The analysis produced will underpin the ‘People’ element of their Local Industrial Strategy. 

In the West Midlands mapping and gapping of data needs by the Office for Data Analytics identified as skills data as a key evidence and data gap in the region. WMCA with WMREDI partners are developing the SAP Analysis and wider skills analysis, the following sections are the emerging key points from this work.

The West Midlands Region faces a significant qualification gap. By placing qualifications in a hierarchy based on the equivalent National Vocational Qualification, we can see the co-incidence between a high proportion of the population with no qualifications and a high score on the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, an ranking of Census areas based on the different dimensions of deprivation

The proportion of the population with no qualifications at all for each three LEP areas compared to the UK average (7.9%) with Coventry and Warwickshire within the margin of error at 7.3%, followed by GBSLEP at 10.0%and the Black Country far behind at 16.7%. The skills deficit in the Black Country is still apparent when looking only at the metropolitan area, with the highest percentage in Sandwell at 20.3%. This difference may be partly explained by the population in this area being older and more likely to have performed manual work which did not require formal qualifications.

Trends: Across the full 3-LEP area, the proportion without qualifications has fallen from 18.2%to 11%in the last ten years (2009 to 2019). Across the UK, it fell from 13.7%to 8%. This is a greater reduction in absolute numbers in the West Midlands, versus the UK, but a smaller one proportionally (a 65%reduction in ‘no qualifications’ status over ten years in the West Midlands, vs71% in the UK).

Levels: Across each qualification level (as below), Coventry and Warwickshire LEP is consistently within the margin of error of the UK (suggesting a similar performance), with GBSLEP behind (most notably at the NVQ4+ level) and the Black Country further behind. The contrast at NVQ4+ between the Black Country (24.7%) and the UK (40.2%) is particularly striking. The importance of up-skilling people at the NVQ3 level to higher levels will be discussed further in the comparison of supply and demand.

Average of Dec 2018, Jan 2019 and Feb 2019, the percentage of 16 –17 year old NEETs in the WM 7 Met area was 6.6% (4,400 people), England was 5.5%. Compared to average of Dec 2017, Jan 2018 and Feb 2018 there has been a decrease of 5.0% ( or 0.5pp, -230 people) in the WM 7 Met. area while England decreased by 9.2% (or 0.5pp).

Furlough -Within the LEP areas, total numbers of workers on furlough are particularly concentrated in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP area. As a result, this area is likely to be particularly exposed to the impact of the phasing out of the scheme. In the Black Country, on the other hand, has a lower number of furlough workers, indicating that a larger share of their working-age population are either in key roles, have lost employment, or were not economically active prior to the pandemic

Apprenticeship Location: Mapping learner locations by parliamentary constituency for 2019/20 Q1 and Q2 does not indicate a clear relationship to general commuting patterns or population density. 

This is likely a result of the fact that, as Department for Education research shows, apprenticeships are largely and increasingly concentrated in large employers. Research by the Sutton Trust suggested that the Covid-19 crisis may exacerbate this situation, with larger employers better able to retain their apprentices and continue to recruit.

This also suggests that transport is a significant limitation on connecting learners to providers, unless more small firms participate in the future.

Apprentices in the region appear to have a slightly younger age profile than further education in general, with 57% aged under 25in the West Midlands versus 51%for further education in the metropolitan area for which data is available. The ethnic breakdown of apprenticeships closely matches the general population, as summarised below for apprenticeships of all levels. There are no significant differences in ethnic breakdown across the different levels of apprenticeship.Top course categories echo the largest industries in the regional economy, though it is clear that some sectors place more emphasis on apprentices than others. Administration, accounting, and finance are somewhat over-represented in apprenticeships. 

However, the larger share of manufacturing in the regional economy compared to the UK is not reflected in the apprenticeship figures. As the later section on demand will discuss, most job postings result from replacing existing workers and not from expansion of the sector, meaning that the slow decline of manufacturing employment in the region does not necessarily explain this shortfall in apprenticeship numbers.