Almost 80 businesses operating in Peterborough have given feedback in a survey asking what kinds of courses and skills they would like to see delivered at the new University of Peterborough. The survey results will be used to help shape a curriculum in which advanced technical training is embedded.
The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority is engaging with employers to ensure that the curriculum delivered will both help students into well-paid, secure jobs, while also addressing the current and future skills needs of the local economy.
The survey results from the 79 businesses will be used to help shape a curriculum in which advanced technical training is embedded. A concerted effort was made to engage with some of the city’s largest employers, and around 60% of those surveyed have over 50 employees in Peterborough.
Employers were asked questions including what skills are needed now versus what will likely be in demand in the future, and how best they think those skills and learning can be delivered.
Employers said that skills in mechanical and structural engineering, mathematics, science and certain health and social care skills were in demand now, and would continue to be so in the future. The most popular areas of the proposed curriculum were business, IT and digital and sustainability skills. Those areas of learning were judged to have been favoured because of their general importance to a range of business sectors.
Newer and rapidly progressing technology featured strongly in the responses, with artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and software development highlighted as likely to be in significant demand in the future. Sustainability, primary environmental management and the circular economy were also identified as areas where skills will be needed in the future.
The skills delivery model that respondents believed was the most beneficial was the opportunity for work-based learning through higher apprenticeships. But more broadly, the opportunity for university undergraduates and postgraduates to get involved in the business community early on was seen as very attractive, with blended learning and industry placements also scoring highly.
83% of respondents suggested they would use a research arm within the university, either immediately or in the longer term. Manufacturing, advanced manufacturing and materials companies were the most enthusiastic about the possibility of a research arm.
Most of the employers surveyed were from the priority sectors identified by the Combined Authority of agri-food, construction, education, professional services, health and social care, IT and digital, life sciences, logistics and distribution, manufacturing and advanced manufacturing and materials.
The survey results will be used as part of shaping a curriculum in which advanced technical training is embedded. It is envisaged that via higher level degrees and apprenticeships, two-year degree programmes and work-based study and placements in industry, a blended learning approach using a rage of teaching methods that are flexible are key to attracting students of all ages to the University and embedding life-long learning. With higher education debt and job prospects now ever-more in the minds of prospective students, it is anticipated that a university which focuses on providing courses that align with the skills demands of local businesses will prove a successful formula.
Peterborough has an identified lack of higher education provision, with a key challenge of the University to improve on the 26 per cent of its residents holding a Level 4 qualification or above.
Mayor James Palmer said:
“We have always said that this university will be different and should engage with the local business community from development through to operation in order to turn out the kinds of technical skills needed in our local economy. Not only that, but the way skills are delivered is also important, and we can see from the survey that courses which involve work placement or work-based study were revealed to be very popular.
“It is very encouraging that lots of local employers have engaged with this survey and their feedback will be valuable in the development of the curriculum.
“We need this university to help retain and attract talented people to the local area, to drive up the levels of aspiration and to offer a secure, proven educational pathway to better life chances, fulfilling careers and the skills that will be in demand in the 21st Century economy."
Councillor John Holdich, Leader of Peterborough City Council and Deputy Mayor of the Combined Authority, said:
"Our aspiration is for a university for Peterborough which is rooted in the needs of the local economy and supplying the skills demanded by local employers. This in turn will help our young people into well-paid, secure jobs fit for the rapidly evolving 21st Century workplace.
"Our employers have told us quite clearly what skills they need and the industries likely to prosper in future years which will now be used to shape the curriculum to be offered by the university.
"These are exciting times for higher education in Peterborough which will allow us to keep our talented young people living and working in the city."
The university is on course to open in September 2022 to its first 2,000 students on the embankment site in what is planned to be an iconic building for Peterborough.
The survey was carried out by Opportunity Peterborough.