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How to build a strategic plan for employer engagement

06 May 2024

We all know the landscape of education is ever changing and evolving. In the further and higher education sectors adapting to the needs of learners, industries, and communities is vital.

At New College Durham (NCD) we knew we needed to identify the pressing challenges in the North East region, and then craft and implement a strategic plan to address them.

We began our transformative journey by committing to address the significant challenges faced by the North East region such as high unemployment rates and skill gaps. Knowing that there is an increasingly urgent need for a skilled workforce, the college initiated a five-year strategic plan with a strong emphasis on stakeholder engagement.

This plan was designed to create a curriculum that not only meets the skill needs of the region but also maximises opportunities for learners, staff, and employers.

As result of the strategy and plan, we now have robust partnerships with over 250 stakeholders, including businesses, local authorities, and educational institutions. These partnerships are the backbone of an employer-led curriculum, ensuring that courses align with industry requirements.

Leaders, managers and teaching teams all work in collaboration with employers to design and implement the curriculum.

To add to our employer engagement, we invested in campus infrastructure, creating an employer hub and expanded our business development team.

Our ongoing commitment to positive change is the golden thread in our various initiatives both now and future. We’ll keep reviewing and developing our strategic plan beyond 2026 and maintain the emphasis on staff training to stay abreast of emerging industry needs.

We are focused on green initiatives and have created a green skills manager role who is rolling out the pioneering green skills retrofit courses and Skills Bootcamps in green skills.

The impact on the college community has been and continues to be huge; extending from students to employers and the broader region. Our proactive engagement with employers has led to the creation of bespoke courses, apprenticeship schemes, and strong advisory boards.

The college has seen a significant increase in student enrolment: our destination data reflects positive outcomes, with 93% of further education and higher education students achieving positive destinations.

The success of our initiatives offers valuable lessons for others looking to implement similar programs. The key takeaways include the importance of clear strategic planning to engage with employers, active stakeholder engagement, investment in infrastructure and personnel, and a commitment to staying current with industry needs.

Our model of collaboration with regional partners and active involvement in national networks showcases the potential for collective impact if we all work together to drive for.

Alison Maynard is the Deputy Principal at New College Durham

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