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Government reveals Regional Skills Deal

Government reveals Regional Skills Deal

🕔18.Jul 2018

A new Skills Deal, which could unlock up to £69million, has been announced by the Education Secretary with the West Midlands Mayor in Dudley today, reports Kevin Johnson

The Skills Deal agreed with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will “boost digital and technical skills, job opportunities and productivity across the region” – supporting more young people and adults into work as well as upskilling and retraining local people of all ages.

The Government will co-fund the new skills deal, alongside employer funding and the West Midlands Combined Authority will invest £20 million as part of its Regional Skills Plan.

The West Midlands has the largest proportion of the working-age population without qualifications in England.

The Deal has a particular focus on the construction, automotive and digital sectors as well as efforts to improve work experience and careers advice. It is anticipated that the professional sector will be the next area to receive attention.

Separately, plans are proceeding for the much delayed devolution of the Adult Education £100 million budget from next April.

The new Deal includes:

  • Creating hundreds of new apprenticeships at small and medium sized businesses in priority areas, including in construction, automotive and digital sectors – helping increasing job opportunities for all.
  • A multi-million investment in local colleges – ensuring they have access to the latest equipment and facilities to teach the skills the region and the country need, including digital, and construction.
  • Up to £5million to work with employers to develop a National Retraining Scheme (NRS) pilot to drive adult learning and retraining.
  • £1 million to boost Edtech and the way it supports adult learners in the West Midlands.
  • £1 million to improve careers advice for young people, including a new careers hub in the West Midlands.
  • Piloting an innovative online portal for businesses to share work experience opportunities with schools.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

The West Midlands is the engine of our thriving economy, but we want to make sure even more local people have the skills they need to get on in life, while also boosting the region’s productivity and technical expertise.

This new skills deal will provide the right investment so that both young people and adults have the chance to learn, upskill, retrain and take advantage of the range of exciting jobs in areas such as construction, cyber security and digital technology.

By supporting apprenticeships in small and medium sized businesses, more people will be able to earn and learn and the focus on digital and technical skills, which are both in high demand, will help people to get the skills they need to get the jobs of tomorrow.

Whilst the Deal does not represent a significant sum of new money, it is seen as a key moment for the Mayor and the West Midlands. He has made skills his priority and has publicly revealed his frustrations with the Department for Education. 

The Mayor and his WMCA team, under director of skills and productivity Julie Nugent, will hope the Skills Deal gives them the authority to shape new approaches to skills in the region and earns them more trust from the DfE.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said:

Every time I speak to businesses in West Midlands, the number one issue that keeps getting fed back to me as the barrier for growth is skills. We know best the challenges facing West Midlands businesses and, among the colleges and educational institutions, we know how to tackle them.

This deal means more apprenticeships and more money for adult education, career advice and technical education which is brilliant news for both businesses and young people. But perhaps more importantly, this new way of working with Government means we have new powers and resource to help deliver the right outcomes for the West Midlands and for Government.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey said:

As part of this investment we will be introducing new progression coaches so young people can get extra support to guide them when making choices about their future – whether that’s choosing to go straight into work, an apprenticeship, further training or education. Enabling them to make the most of the opportunities on offer.

To help boost the region’s digital and cyber skills Government will launch a new Local Digital Skills Partnership in the West Midlands bringing together regional businesses, local authorities and educational institutes to tackle the digital skills gap and support the growth of the local economy.

Digital Minister Margot James said:

There should be no digital divide. Every individual and business should have the skills and confidence to make the most of the huge opportunities modern technology brings.

These new schemes will give people from all ages and backgrounds in the West Midlands the chance to improve their digital and cyber skills and play a vital part in helping us build a Britain that is fit for the future.

Main pic: Andy Street, Damian Hinds and Lowell Williams (CEO, Dudley College), courtesy @andy4wm

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