Coventry’s economy is strong, bolstered by the growing advanced manufacturing sector, increasing rates of employment, decreasing rates of unemployment, and more residents with high level qualifications. There are also more residents working in highly-skilled and higher paid jobs.
While good growth in the city has created more well-paid jobs, there also arises a need to address skills shortages by raising aspirations amongst schoolchildren and retaining skilled professionals and graduates in the city.
The number of Coventry residents in employment has been increasing strongly for the last few years. The employment rate is 72%, with 173,100 of 241,900 working age (aged 16-64) residents in paid work. This rate is in line with other similar areas with a high number of full-time students but is lower than national average.
Overall, employment rate has been improving for three years, signifying a departure from a situation in previous years where a notable increase in total working age population led to a boost in employment head count but did not translate to a significant increase in employment rate.
The increase in the employment rate in the last year of just over one percentage point is not statistically significant, but the data gives some evidence that the trend of improvement continued in 2018.
The total number of residents in employment has grown because of increases in both full-time and part-time work. In recent years, there has been a bigger increase in the number of residents working in higher skilled and higher paid jobs than in lower skilled occupations.
There appears to be inequalities in employment, with residents of White British ethnicity having higher employment rates than amongst residents from BME backgrounds overall. The increases in employment amongst residents has been amongst both men and women, although the employment rate amongst men remains higher; 74% compared to 68%.
Unemployment rate in Coventry stands at 4.6%, or approximately 8,600 working-age residents. Coventry’s figures are roughly in line with the regional (4.7%) and national (4.1%) rates. National unemployment is at its lowest level in years. Similarly, unemployment in Coventry has been dropping over the medium term and is now notably lower than pre-recession levels. In 2018, the unemployment rate amongst Coventry residents fell a little, continuing the positive medium-term trend.
The claimant count, a measure of the number of residents who are claiming jobseeker’s allowance or claiming universal credit due to unemployment, stands at 6,000 people, compared to the unemployment estimate of 8,600. The claimant count is highest in Foleshill and lowest in Wainbody.
Universal credit full-service went live in Coventry in July 2018, where claimants for several benefits began the transition to claiming universal credit. It was predicted that the transition would be challenging for some claimants, with potential delays in receiving payment; a wider group of people are required to search for work; and there are stricter conditions on what claimants are required to do to receive payment.
35% of Coventry’s working aged residents, or around 85,400 people, are now qualified to level 4 (degree level) or above. Coventry now performs better on this measure than the West Midlands average or in similar areas.
Coventry benefits from a ‘graduate gain’ thanks to the number of students at the city’s two universities; however, graduate retention is low with only 15% of students staying to work in the city following graduation.
Almost a tenth of working aged residents (24,900 people) in the city have no qualifications. This is worse than the England average (8%) but is comparable to region (10%) and similar areas. A lack of qualifications may limit residents’ ability to gain more rewarding employment. However, many of the residents with no qualifications are aged 50 or over and are already in employment.
8% of Coventry firms who responded to the national Employer Skills Survey 2017 said they had at least one skills shortage vacancy and were finding it difficult to recruit to a job because the candidates did not have the required skills. Additionally, 12% of Coventry firms said they had skills gaps whereby at least one of their employees did not have all the skills required for the job.
In January 2018, 380 (5.4%) of 16-to-17-year olds were either NEET or their activity was not known. This is lower than the WMCA (7.1%), West Midlands (6.4%) and the England (6.0%) figures and represent a decline of 1.5% points from January 2017.
One way to address skill shortages is through apprenticeships. In 2017/18, nearly half (47%) of apprenticeships in the city are at level 3 (advanced level) with level 4 (degree level) apprenticeships remaining the smallest level. Coventry apprentices with a Coventry home address are more likely to be studying at level 2 (intermediate level), and apprentices with a non-Coventry home address are more likely to be studying for a level 4 apprenticeship. To address the skills gap and wage gap between people living in the city and people working in the city, it may be worth encouraging more residents to start level 4 apprenticeships.
Employers with a pay bill of over £3 million each year, including Coventry City Council, pay into the government’s apprenticeship levy scheme to fund apprenticeship programmes. Funding can be retained by the employer if it goes towards apprenticeship training and assessments.
In 2018/19, the Council spent £524,540 of apprenticeship levy funding, supporting 79 new apprenticeships in the Council and local authority schools and providing 99 qualifications for Council staff. 12 types of courses were offered, including civil engineering, catering and professional chefs, accountancy, taxation, and play work.
To widen participation, the Council has partnered with two charities, the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre and Grapevine, to improve access to apprenticeships for underrepresented groups; and has begun offering mentoring to apprentices. The Council has also joined the Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network; and Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network, offering opportunities to apprentices, providing training to help apprentices inspire the next generation of apprentices.
The Pod hosts the city’s Time Union, which is a system of mutual exchange where members share their time, assets, and skills on an hour-for-hour basis. Members of the Time Union have exchanged cinema trips and lessons in languages, fitness, DIY, career, life coaching, film-making, and crafts.