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17 May 2022

PhD pass is a 'much-needed boost' for Carmen

Doctoral research carried out by a King’s alumna highlighted the ways local networks can help address technical skills shortages across England.

King's alumna, Carmen Nicoara. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Driven by her own experiences in the sector, Carmen Nicoara chose to examine policymakers’ attempts to address persistent skills shortages in advanced manufacturing and, more specifically, the role and impact of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) in addressing said shortages.

Her research involved more than 50 local and national study participants, submissions of Freedom of Information requests, and quantitative datasets from a range of organisations and showed how small networks can drive positive change through investment and support into local areas and clusters.

Carmen, a member of the Department of Political Economy, said: “I became interested in the role of technicians in my previous job, and was particularly keen to explore the local effort that was being made to address the problem of technician skills shortages.

“The institution of the LEP was relatively new in England at the time when I started my PhD. Their role in local skills formation was under development and under-researched, which then informed my specific research topic.”

Carmen research showed the importance of preserving LEPs’ local scale of governance to build positive change in training investment. She was also able to find evidence that small-sized employer networks were able to adjust firms’ poaching behaviours and contribute towards building trust between competitors.

She said: “LEPs contributed – indirectly and unknowingly to them – to this small, yet positive step towards change, by investing money and resources into these local employer networks and clusters. Given their small size, these local networks would have likely gone unnoticed regionally and certainly nationally.”

Having submitted her doctoral thesis earlier this year, Carmen appeared before a panel at a ‘viva voce', a rigorous examination from senior academics, and received the news in April that she had been successful.

She said: “Having completed the PhD brought me a much-needed boost in self-confidence. I feel very content and at peace now that I passed the viva and my minor corrections have been accepted by my examiners.”

At present, Carmen works as a researcher at the East London Business Alliance (ELBA) - a role she developed during her PhD. In the future, she would like to develop her own research consultancy.

She added: “I would like to thank my supervisor, Professor Paul Lewis, my partner Reece, and my parents Nata and Gigi. Every single one of these people played a monumental role in my PhD journey.”

In this story

Paul Lewis

Professor of Political Economy