Park Royal Workforce Skills AnalysisIris Kong
According to the often repeated mantra, employers are now ‘in the driving seat’ of English vocational education and training reform, driving up demand for higher-level and higher-quality professional and technical skills to increase productivity, boost business performance and deliver economic growth. But which skills and qualifications do employers want, how do their skills needs align with the aspirations of local young people, and what are local training providers doing to engage employers and learners and offer responsive local provision – whilst also delivering national skills policy priorities? These are some of the questions underpinning our analysis of employers’ workforce skills needs in England’s largest industrial estate, Park Royal in West London, home to over 2,000 mostly micro and small businesses employing more than 30,000 people.
Park Royal is an important provider of entry-level and low-skilled employment for local residents. Contrary to current national skills policy priorities, the employers surveyed in the study (by our partner Qa Research) had little interest in high-level professional and technical skills or formal qualifications, including apprenticeships. Young people in turn were reported to be finding low-wage apprenticeships unappealing, despite the good longer-term career prospects they can offer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, training providers have struggled to engage employers or interest them in upskilling the local workforce.
Major employment and housing developments are planned for the Park Royal area, with the arrival of Crossrail and HS2 rail connections. This poses some risks for existing employers: rising land values present a threat to the many micro and small enterprises currently located on the site, and local residents without access to entry-level jobs may struggle to enter or re-enter the local labour market. The challenges and opportunities presented by the present and future workforce needs of employers in this small but important part of London’s economy are thus inextricably entwined.