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14 July 2021

Attracting and retaining talent for Dorset

Apprentice and mentor from 3 Sided Cube looking at laptop

Rebecca Davies, Head of Enterprise, Skills & Industry at Dorset LEP reveals how we are addressing the county’s skills challenge.

Our ambition is that by 2038, Dorset’s workforce will be highly productive, aspirational and agile so that the talents of all contribute to prosperity, well-being and innovation.

Never has this been more of a priority than in the continuously emerging effects of the pandemic on local employment, business recovery and availability of skills.

Our latest insights demonstrate an exponential growth in employer demand over the second quarter of this year when the economy opened up and over 20,500 vacancies were advertised in Dorset. However, as reported by the BBC, employers widely complain of significant recruitment challenges and skills gaps, stifling their recovery at this critical time. Yet, out of work levels in Dorset are stubbornly twice as high as those seen prior the pandemic.

Our Local Skills Report, published earlier this year highlighted that despite having world-class educational providers at their fingertips, businesses in Dorset experience serious skills shortages, creating barriers for local economic growth:

  • Dorset ranked among the top three LEP areas for the proportions of hard-to-fill and skills shortage vacancies reported by employers, with 61% of Dorset employers having had at least one vacancy that was hard to fill (national average 44%) and 50% of all vacancies being hard-to-fill (national average 36%)
  • One-third of all vacancies were related to skills shortages, with manufacturing and engineering, healthcare, chefs and other hospitality and professional services roles, i.e. accounting, finance and legal, all highlighted as hard to fill
  • Only a quarter of Dorset employers engaged with colleges and even fewer (14%) worked with universities to meet their skills needs. Local employers reported issues with accessibility and responsiveness of educational provision and barriers to productive collaborations.

Our commitment to facilitating productive business-education collaborations

Dorset Skills Advisory Panel & Board, which brings together key stakeholders from business, local authorities and learning providers in Dorset, we are determined to shape the future skills solutions required for Dorset’s local economy to recover, aspire and thrive in the future.

Developing future growth skills as a strategic priority for Dorset, we are pursuing growth cluster collaborations and business – education links to:

  • Understand and resolve skills mismatches at local level
  • Remove barriers for businesses and make high quality educational institutions, talent and skills they need more readily accessible
  • Provide clear and attractive labour market information and local career pathways to attract and retain talent in Dorset.

The Local Skills Report features a review of current activities and a number of case studies offering creative ideas for growth collaborations, such as the apprenticeship development partnership between Bournemouth and Poole College and Bournemouth based award winning tech-for good company 3 Sided Cube.

Dorset Careers Hub has been pivotal in continuing to bring employers, schools and colleges together to transform careers education. As one of the leading careers hubs in the UK, Dorset Careers Hub is now supporting over 75 schools across the county including special educational needs schools. Working with a growing number of cornerstone employers, Dorset Careers Hub has recently managed to deliver a successful virtual work experience programme providing over 1000 students with much needed exposure to the world of work throughout the pandemic. Through a series of Dorset Careers Live events it is helping young people to navigate their career options including apprenticeships, work experience schemes and graduate programmes within key local sectors. 

Recent popular events organised by local partners in Dorset also showcased the clear appetite for a joint approach to skills, highlighting Dorset’s strong uniting values and the impetus of business-education collaborations to drive curriculum response, aspiration and graduate retention, and tackle social issues and disadvantage, while boosting local opportunities for apprenticeships, job placements, virtual work experiences and lifelong learning.

Examples of high profile initiatives that took place throughout May include:

- The Careers and Apprenticeship Show 2021 – organised by Dorset LEP and its careers hub in partnership with 12 organisations across Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey, the virtual show attracted 60 exhibitors and over 20,000 students to their virtual booths to benefit from 20 live careers talks, 30 pre-recorded careers sessions and hundreds of downloadable resources highlighting local careers.

- Advancing Dorset’s Defence, Security and Innovation - a virtual preview of Dorset’s Defence BattleLab at the Dorset Innovation Park, this event also offered its over 70 attendants an overview of a range of business support initiatives for Dorset’s SMEs working in the defence and security sector, funding opportunities and industry engagement programmes from Bournemouth University and Arts University Bournemouth.

- Looking for Talent for the Future? – a partnership event between Bournemouth University, BCP Council and the Dorset Engineering and Manufacturing Cluster, this virtual experience sharing meetup, aimed at Dorset-based businesses looking to provide placement opportunities and retain highly skilled graduates locally, gave an insight into the shared experiences of employers, students and engagement officers offering work experience stories and perspectives.

- Labour Market Information (LMI) Workshops – these tailored workshops explore labour market demand in Dorset and reveal industry, occupations, salary, automation and education trends in Dorset and its key established and growth sectors. They are designed with training providers and showcase the Dorset LEP Labour Market and Skills Research interactive dashboards and tools and help to align skills provision with the employer needs in Dorset. Workshops were well received recently by Job Centre Plus work coaches and Skills & Learning Adult Community Education tutors.

- Staying Local Workshops – these workshops are aimed at students from local universities and colleges that are about to enter the job market and provide fresh insights into the currently available job opportunities in Dorset and the skills needs of local employers.

Providing access to skills support and market insights

Local businesses willing to collaborate for skills in Dorset, interested in finding out about apprenticeships or building relationships with one of Dorset's further or higher education establishments and training providers, can visit our Business – Education Links page to explore local opportunities or make an enquiry and tell our specialist skills brokerage service about your requirements and the challenges you face and they will put together an action plan to support your needs.

Educational providers interested in a LMI workshop and learning more about the labour market, needs of local employers and future skills developments, get in touch with Dorset LEP’s Skills Analyst by emailing .

Agility of skills delivery response is key. Dorset has a clear vision for a future of highly skilled workforce that meets the needs of the local economy and priority business sectors. This widely adopted ambition is placing us in a leading position to trail blaze innovative collaborations and initiatives that bring momentum and energy to our recovery and ensure we continue working smarter together.

For an understanding of the diverse range of education providers in Dorset, click through the presentation below:

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