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FECs, innovation, and skills: A literature review

There has been a widespread understanding that the Further Education system in the UK needs enhancement in order to improve the match between skill needs by businesses and what schools and colleges in the UK currently provide. Many members of the eight Regional Productivity Forums in The Productivity Institute report that skill mismatches are a key factor in inhibiting productivity growth in their areas. With the rising challenges of labour shortages across a wide range of occupations, the need for developing the right skills, for the right occupations and industries, and at the right time is even more critical to tackling the UK’s productivity shortfall.

The first phase of research presented in this report reviews the literature on Further Education Colleges (FECs) in the UK and internationally and their role in skills provision to the local and regional economy. This work is a precursor and provides a foundation for the next phase, which assesses FEC needs and their performance in those ecosystems. This subsequent research will interrogate FEC understandings of the skills needs and ecosystem performance. This review explores what FECs are and how they have emerged as one of the focal points for innovation ecosystem development. It then turns to what they do and highlights the main pathways through which they contribute to the skills profiles of their regions.

In each of these, we present some international comparisons as a contrast to the UK experience. FECs can also play other roles in innovation ecosystems and this report explores the interplay between those roles and their skills provision mission. Finally, it reflects on the diversity of possible experiences of FEC ecosystem engagement and proposes a conceptual framework to structure analysis of FEC strategies and opportunity sets.

Authors: Jen Nelles, Kevin Walsh, Michalis Papazoglou, Tim Vorley (Innovation Caucus, Oxford Brookes University)


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J.Nelles, K. Walsh, M. Papazoglu, T. Vorley (2022) FECS, innovation, and skills: A literature review Productivity Insights Paper No. 012, The Productivity Institute.