Press release

Quiet revolution in UK universities creating next gen workforce

A “quiet revolution” is taking place at UK universities, creating a new generation of highly skilled workers, according to a new report.

Forging Futures: Building higher level skills through university and employer collaboration, published by Universities UK and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), examines how employers and universities are working together to build pathways to the highly skilled jobs crucial to the UK’s economic future.

The joint report shows how employers are working with universities to build these partnerships, tailoring courses to produce individuals with skills needed by their sector.

The report notes that both employers and universities benefit from improved collaboration, with businesses getting access to new talent, better productivity and improved competitiveness – both in the UK and globally.

Universities also reap the rewards, and are able to provide relevant and up-to-date courses, diversify their offer and enhance employment prospects for their students.

One case study within the report shows how collaboration with the visual effects company Framestore allowed students to gain hands-on experience producing Oscar-winning special effects on the blockbuster film Gravity.

Professor John Coyne, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby and UKCES Commissioner, said:

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for people to gain the skills they need. Work-based courses are an alternative way for young people and experienced workers to gain high-level skills, and from the report it’s clear there is a lot of great work taking place.

A quiet revolution is happening in UK universities, but we need more of these university-employer partnerships - and more awareness of work-based routes - so it is a cultural norm to see them as alternatives to the traditional degree.

Effects specialists Framestore worked with Arts University Bournemouth to give prospective new recruits hands-on experience of their industry, while filling vacancies at the award-winning firm.

Amy Smith, head of recruitment at Framestore, said:

The visual effects industry moves so fast we have openings for jobs now that didn’t even exist when many students started their degrees.

By working with Arts University Bournemouth we’re able to enhance the curriculum to develop graduates that can slot right into the business. It’s such a win-win situation that we think all employers should be doing it.

The report follows recent findings from the OECD suggesting there are gaps in the employability skills of graduates in the UK, as well as issues with progression through work.

But findings within the report show how collaboration has enabled employers to tailor courses to meet skills needs, giving graduates more relevant skills and existing employees opportunity to develop their current abilities.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said:

This report shows that universities are critical to developing a highly skilled workforce that will underpin the UK’s future economic prosperity. The bespoke and innovative partnerships with employers seen in this report help give UK companies a genuine competitive edge and create high value jobs for employees.

It is encouraging to see that this collaboration is flourishing with a range of activity across different institutions, industrial sectors and employers. The appetite among universities to enhance and grow this collaboration is strong.

The full report can be found here.