Higher level skills match

Logos of HLSM and the ESF

This project is part-funded by the European Social Fund.

Background to engagement activity

Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM) was a unique collaborative project positioning Birmingham City University, Aston University and Newman University in partnership with local authorities in Cannock Chase, Lichfield, Tamworth, and North Worcestershire. Part funded by the European Social Fund, HLSM tackled the gap between the future skills required by businesses, and the skills currently held by the workforce. HLSM partners rejected individual funding opportunities to tackle local student employability and business skills-needs challenges in favour of this collaborative approach – enabling partners to design a collective skills delivery project using a unique account management service.

Engagement activity undertaken

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has identified that the WMCA area has a relatively low employment rate and relatively high unemployment when compared to the UK overall. HLSM has contributed by undertaking targeted skills challenges for businesses that support local economic growth within Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP’s priority growth sectors. The project signed agreements with 329 businesses and completed 189 skills projects whilst engaging over 1,200 students and graduates on initiatives including paid jobs, work experience and mentoring.

A key HLSM innovation is its Account Management service delivery model – providing a single point of contact from an HLSM partner as a gateway to all partner Institutions products and services for ‘time poor’ SME’s. Account Managers engage with businesses using a specially designed HLSM Toolkit.  This provided detailed frameworks for effectively identifying SME skills gaps. The single point of contact also ensured streamlined delivery to businesses.

SMEs received 1-2-1 account management to support access to the most appropriate skills and business support services. In return, companies involved with HLSM contributed to the design of HE skills provision, ensuring it responded effectively to business needs, and had the opportunity to share their insights on current and future demand for skills within the region.

Knowledge transferred

Value for individual businesses, students and the local economy was created and shared through the HLSM SME Skills and Graduate Talent Charter - a business engagement tool combining data gathering and survey methodologies. Business intelligence gathered through the Charter identified and aimed to improve productivity, soft and technical skills gaps in SMEs.

In return, the accumulated business intelligence ensured Charter signatories played a direct role in informing delivery and development of the local Employment and Skills Strategy. For example, the business intelligence led directly to the introduction of workshops on marketing skills and the use of social media, which benefitted HLSM businesses.

Evidence of impact

HLSM signed agreements with 329 businesses and completed 189 skills projects with businesses. A survey of business participants reported that:

  • 87% saw a positive impact on their business.
  • 88% believed HLSM helped sustain or grow their business.
  • 88% believed HLSM made it more likely they’d engage with Universities in the future.
  • 211 HLSM business staff members benefitted from skills support.

Feedback from the survey contributed to a successful bid for a successor programme – HLSME – which continues and builds upon the work of the partnership.

Dates of activity

2017 - 2019