This article was written by Richard Graham, Head of SignedUp
Did you know Google processes more than 40,000 searches every second and Twitter processes 456,000 tweets every minute! The amount of data available on the web is mind blowing and it is only going to increase. This is true of economic and labour market data too. There are hundreds of UK based job, apprenticeship, training, college, university and volunteering websites all bursting with data. There is even a wide range of online labour market information tools available for anyone that wants to drill down into specifics.
All of this data is great news for Economic Regions because it enables them to implement incredibly effective Skills Portals. By aggregating the data that is already available (rather than trying to create it), they can make it easier than ever before for residents and businesses to find the information and opportunities they need.
Skills Portals are not new. Over the last 20 years, economic regions have operated hundreds of them with varying levels of success. However, as technology advances, these Portals have become easier to implement and easier to operate. For example, in previous years most Skills Portals relied on either an administrator inputting relevant data or wider economic stakeholders posting their own opportunities. However, in recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of APIs (an API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other). This means it is now possible to utilise these APIs to gather diverse data sets into one place.
When someone searches for a job opportunity; a young person searches for an apprenticeship; or a business searches for training provision for their staff, more often than not they will have to use a national system. This is unfortunate for two reasons. Firstly, it forces them to wade through information in other areas that is not relevant to them. Secondly, the data is not set within the local context. A local Skills Portal will enable people and businesses to search for opportunities in their local area and it will display those opportunities alongside local information to inform the decision-making process.
The increase in the amount of economic and labour market data is good because it helps us make vital information more available to those it is aimed at. However, it can also be detrimental if it creates complexity. A straightforward google search for apprenticeships in Manchester will reveal a huge range of websites and systems that all hold different information that varies dramatically in terms of quality. This is similar to most regions around the UK. It is vital that economic regions make sense of the data to reduce complexity and improve the user experience.