The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has set out how it intends to use £28m to improve education and training for adults in the region.
New ways to tackle unemployment through training, more meaningful help for hard-to-reach communities, a boost for apprenticeship starts and more help for people to re-train for better jobs are just some of the aims as WMCA prepares to take control of the £126m Adult Education Budget for the West Midlands.
The WMCA has earmarked just under £100m of that budget for existing colleges and training providers.
But the authority has just completed a tender exercise for a slice of its adult education budget – around £28m – which will be used to respond to local priorities for improving education, training and productivity across the West Midlands. This will target the unemployed as well as those in work who want the opportunity to re-train or boost their career.
Cllr George Duggins, portfolio holder for productivity and skills at WMCA and leader of Coventry City Council, said: “We want all our residents to have the chance to gain skills, get good jobs and good wages, and to benefit from the impressive economic growth being enjoyed by some of our biggest sectors, including digital, construction and engineering.
“We’ve already helped a number of adults gain exciting new careers in construction through our Construction Gateway programme – which provides an introduction to the skills required to work on site, site-ready certification, and directly links into employers with guaranteed job interviews at the end of the course.
“Taking control of this £126m fund gives the WMCA a huge opportunity to ensure more money goes to learners in the region – and we want to make sure training and education for adults in the West Midlands is directly linked to real job opportunities, and is providing the skills employers want.”
The separate £28m tender, which closed on March 6, was split into three parts, with each focussing on local skills and training priorities. Parts one and two total £11.5m each, with the third part amounting to £5m.
The first category focusses on helping to tackle youth unemployment, improving grass-roots delivery of training, better engaging hard-to-reach communities (including the homeless) to help them access training and education, and to create sector-based work academies, teaching the skills required for the workplace, with built-in work experience placements.
The second category seeks to deliver flexible adult education courses which fit around work commitments, create new courses to help adults in low-paid and low-skilled jobs to retrain, increase training and education for key sectors for the West Midlands economy (including construction, digital and engineering) and to improve pre-apprenticeship provision to help boost the uptake of apprenticeships in the region.
And the third category has provision for innovative and pilot approaches created to test new approaches to solving skills needs.
Contract awards from the £28m tender will be announced in May, with new courses expected to start from August 2019.