Building Links Between Colleges and Employers


Employer and college engagement is a missing link in resolving growing skills gaps in the UK workforce.  A report by UKCES, 157 Group and the Gazelle College Group examines how we can build these links, establish business relationships and prevent future skills shortages.

The Missing Link?

Instances where employers failed to find applicants with the right skills have doubled between 2011 and 2013. This sharp rise in skills shortage vacancies has the potential to undermined economic recovery and stunt technological growth.

Education and training is key to filling these shortages but colleges cannot do this on their own. For colleges to design training that delivers on these skills they need to understand both immediate and future area workforce demands.

Benefits for Colleges

Successful long-term engagement with employers will enable colleges to:

  • Be better placed to equip students with skills for local jobs
  • Provide learners with a clear line of sight to real job opportunities
  • Respond to the needs of the local economy and build a local presence
  • Establish a long term future within the community & weather eternal changes
  • Build credibility, respect and create ‘advocates’ for the college in the business community
  • Learn to operate as a business, driving business narrative through the organisation
  • Understand and be able to demonstrate the colleges role and purpose
  • Foresee and adapt provision for future challenges and demands
  • Increase ‘job outcomes

 Benefits for Businesses

This ‘two-way street’ could help businesses as to:

  • Identify new young talent
  • Recruit ‘work ready’ employees directly from colleges
  • Develop a local workforce with skills that fit their needs
  • Train the local workforce with the skills they need
  • Gain Labour market intelligence
  • Up skill existing staff and gain
  • Develop tailor-made curriculum / provision for their needs
  • Take advantage of work experience opportunities 


Building stronger bonds between colleges and employers is no easy task.” commented John Cridland CBE, CBI Director-General and UKCES Commissioner.

By forging more links between local colleges and firms in their area, we can help ensure that colleges produce students with the skills and characteristics employers need to thrive.

The report poses 4 topics as thinking points to consider when building future collaborations between colleges and employers.

  1. "The primary purpose of a college is to contribute to its economic community.
  2. "College leaders need to develop new types of skills and higher levels of entrepreneurship if the are to succeed in strategic partnerships with employers.
  3. "The credibility of colleges with employers is tied up with what they offer.
  4. "Employers need to get to know their local college and what it has to offer, and be better at articulation their future workforce plans."

We recommend reading the full report: A New Conversation; Employer and College Engagement.pdf

Tor Macleod 12:17

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