Meeting local skill needs

At Activate Learning, we create career pathways to deliver a skilled workforce for Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

At Activate Learning, we create career pathways to deliver a skilled workforce for Oxfordshire and Berkshire. Our learning experiences equip students with the knowledge and confidence to succeed, and the skills that employers want.


Nearly 690,000 people live in Oxfordshire, with the population expected to increase to around 725,000 by 2025. 

Business is booming, with over 31,000 businesses across the county and a higher proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises than nationally. Oxford has risen up the ranks in recent years as a top UK location for successful start-up companies, being cited in a number of ‘top business cities for start-ups’ reports.  

Unemployment is lower than the national figure at 3.3% (Sept 2017 – vs 4.5% for England). Dominant sectors for employment include education, the professional, scientific and technical sector, health, tourism and retail. 

Growth industries in the county include:

  • Life sciences and medical instruments
  • High performance technologies: advanced materials, nano-technology, engineering
  • Energy and environmental technologies
  • Digital publishing and media

Oxfordshire also has particular specialist employment clusters in biotechnology, space, cryogenics and advanced engineering.

The Oxford and Oxfordshire City Deal was approved in January 2014. The ongoing strategic economic plan aims to deliver over 26,000 new jobs by 2021 with education and training programmes to improve the local population’s skills for local businesses.   


Reading, in the Thames Valley area, has been identified as one of the top 25 European cities of the future.

Its county, Berkshire, is home to nearly 45,000 businesses. The annual barometer of the economic performance of the UK’s top cities ranks Reading as one of the most dynamic economies for wages, jobs, high skills, productivity and business start-ups in the country. 

The total population in Berkshire is around 910,000, including 165,000 in Reading, and it is expected to grow to over 955,000 by 2025. Just over 3% of the working population is unemployed.

Whilst the Thames Valley Berkshire area has strengths across many sectors of the economy, it has specialisms and strong growth prospects in three: digital technologies; life sciences and healthcare; and energy and environment. Other dominant sectors for employment specifically in Reading include public administration, education and health; finance, IT and business; and distribution, hotels and restaurants. There are particularly big skills gaps affecting IT professionals and advanced engineering.

The Thames Valley Berkshire’s City Deal was approved in October 2013, with ongoing commitment to develop a well-motivated workforce with the skills that local businesses need, and ensure that the target of 33,000 new jobs created by 2021 is backed up with training and education to help build the right skills.