Education must understand the skills needs of business

Sep 03, 2019

Dr Julie Mills, chief executive and group principal at Milton Keynes College.

Dr Julie Mills, chief executive and group principal of Milton Keynes College and the driving force behind the new Institute of Technology, highlights the importance of bridging the gap between education and the workplace and the role played by Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership.

IN THE current evolving economy, there is growing demand on colleges to understand what graduates are capable of and how they can help them translate these skills into jobs.

With one in three graduates being ‘mismatched’ to the jobs they find after leaving college or university, it is essential that colleges fully comprehend the skills that local businesses demand. This is when being a member of MKBLP has been invaluable.

While the high calibre of speakers at MKBLP events and the networking opportunities has always been notable, having direct access to the business people of Milton Keynes has been instrumental in shaping the college that we have today. 

Listening to the needs of businesses from Milton Keynes has influenced our course offering – for instance, demands for ‘fit for purpose’ digital skills ultimately helped build the case for the Institute of Technology. 

Milton Keynes is quickly becoming one of the UK’s top hotspots for enterprises and start-up companies. And with so many of the younger generation coming through, it is vital that the skills they are learning match the needs of local businesses so we can harness this talent and keep it within the city. 

This understanding, and the strong links with local businesses, has also enabled us to place students on work placements to better prepare them for working life while equipping them with the necessary skill set.

Upskilling is not just aligned to the younger generation though. Through MKBLP, the college has been able to understand the requirement to upskill members of the local community who are currently in low skilled, low-paid roles. As a result, we are developing courses which will create workforce pipelines through to higher skilled positions which will help employees to enhance their skill set and wage potential.

On the subject of talent, there is always a wide range of skills around the MKBLP table at any given time which often sparks creative thinking and this has led to council consultations to create a better business environment. 

The diversity of skills and different personalities coming together through MKBLP has quietly helped to steer the city.

These collaborations have also helped businesses of all shapes and sizes to overcome issues which they may have not addressed without the support of MKBLP members. Business to business support can come in many different forms. For instance, our understanding of the Apprenticeship Levy has enabled many businesses to unlock funding they may otherwise have lost to the government.

Dr Julie Mills is a board director of Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership.

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