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Skills Strategy

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2. Opportunities & Challenges

There are a range of opportunities and challenges facing Exeter that suitable skills interventions can provide a response to. Firstly, there are a number of growth sectors in the city, which will drive training needs locally, as well as replacement demand for existing roles where individuals are moving out of employment.

Some 3,500 additional health staff are needed in Exeter by 2030, however there are significant barriers including soft skills, leadership and management skills, and career progression opportunities, particularly for social care. Professional services (including STEM) are anticipated to see a net employment increase of ~1,900 by 2030 in Exeter with soft and digital skills chiefly needed. Wholesale and distribution employment has already increased in Exeter with the siting of Lidl and Amazon depots in the area, though there may be further increases of ~200 roles. Creative arts and cultural may increase by a further 150-200 roles and need digital, leadership and soft skills. Education is anticipated to increase by ~550 jobs in Exeter and need a variety of skills but more importantly are the career routes including for those changing careers. Whether employment in construction will expand is susceptible to other economic factors that make predictions difficult, however, there will always be the need for replacement demand to develop skills to replace those leaving the industry with current shortages in people wanting to work in the industry a key challenge.

In some areas of the economy, sectors are declining, or the impact of automation will shift the skills required for roles, leading to many needing to retrain. These sectoral shifts require navigating to ensure that there are sufficient skills available locally to meet the demand and reduce the risks of unemployment stemming from skills mismatches. More broadly, vacancy data (which have been high given a tight labour market) and insight from businesses suggests that many of the general skills needs are around digital skills, business skills, and core life skills. It is a strength of the training provision in Exeter that insight into skill needs does inform course development in response, but there remain delays and challenges with gaining sufficient demand to justify adjusting training. From a learner’s perspective greater clarity on the career pathways available and where they lead is important to know from an early age and insufficient work experience prior to making key decisions is a barrier to appropriate skill development and career outcomes. Further, despite the good availability of training and learning in Exeter there remain isolated and hard to reach groups who need to be engaged in a different manner so they may upskill.

Some of the key challenges for Exeter are around retention of young people (a longstanding trend) and staff locally (particularly driven by cost of living in Exeter, housing and competition for employees). The pandemic has led to some people leaving the labour market with a decrease in the numbers of economically active individuals in Exeter, particularly the over 50s. This is partly driven by the Great Resignation with individuals re-evaluating their careers and how they want to work. Changing working patterns with increased flexibility are likely to continue to influence employment and skills over the coming few years affecting skills provision and demand. Other macroeconomic trends including the net zero commitments and potential for stagflation and recession will further affect the skills needs and employment in Exeter, to which the city must respond.