Skilled people, good jobs and strong businesses for West Yorkshire

Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership outlines education and skills priorities for region’s economic recovery and beyond

Boosting investment in skills, training and education, and encouraging employers to develop their workforce are at the centre of plans discussed at the latest meeting of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).  

Looking beyond the pandemic to the economic recovery and the opportunities that becoming a Mayoral Combined Authority will bring, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and LEP are developing a new Education and Skills Framework for West Yorkshire.  

Its goal is to improve the quality of life for all West Yorkshire residents by promoting good jobs and a highly skilled, diverse workforce that results in stronger, more innovative, productive and resilient businesses.  

Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the LEP and NP11 group of Northern local enterprise partnerships, said: “There has never been a more important time to invest in skills and training. Our recovery from the devastating effects of the pandemic and the long-term prosperity of our region depends on having people with the right skills to get back into work and be ready for new opportunities, and employers who recognise the value of developing their workforce. 

“The Education and Skills Framework builds on the excellent progress we have made over the past few years in understanding the skills our economy needs and putting in place the support to make this happen.” 

The new framework, which will guide how the Combined Authority and LEP supports education and skills in the future, sets out refreshed strategic priorities and an overarching strategic vision, while being able to respond to changes in the employment and skills landscape. It has been developed following a review of the existing Education and Skills Plan 2016-20 and extensive consultation with key partners across the region. 

The framework’s vision is for West Yorkshire to be “a world-leading region where investment in skills, training and education, and support from employers go hand in hand to create a diverse, inclusive, and highly skilled workforce with good jobs, leading to sustained improvements in the quality of life for all." 

The five strategic priorities are quality technical education; great education connected to business; progression towards, and adaptability and resilience in good work; creating a culture of investment in workforce skills; and driving innovation and productivity through high level skills.  

Already the Combined Authority and LEP have made significant progress against several of their strategic priorities: taking extra responsibilities as the region heads towards devolution, putting in place innovative initiatives and programmes to support skills, training and development, and influencing national thinking around education and skills policy. 

By taking responsibility for the region’s Adult Education Budget, putting in place Delivery Agreements with colleges and implementing the Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee for in-demand skills, the Combined Authority is playing a critical role in identifying and delivering the skills needed across West Yorkshire.  

It is offering careers and retraining opportunities through its [re]boot, FutureGoals and employment hub programmes, which have received an extra £13.5 million investment as a result of funding unlocked through the West Yorkshire devolution deal, and targeting support at students from disadvantaged backgrounds and promoting digital skills. 

The key recommendations of the Future-Ready Skills Commission, led by Combined Authority Chair Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, which outlined a blueprint for the post-16 skills, underpin the Framework and elements of the Skills Commission’s work have also been reflected in the Government’s skills policy. 

Alongside the Education and Skills Framework, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority has today published its annual Labour Market Information Report, which provides an in-depth analysis of supply and demand for skills in the region and the impact of COVID-19.  

Despite successes in recent years, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the region has risen by 86% to 106,300, while 112,800 roles had been furloughed by the end of December, or 11% of eligible jobs. Together, this is equivalent to 11.5% of the region’s 1.9 million-strong workforce.  

The report finds that West Yorkshire’s productivity level is below the national average, with average pay levels also behind the national average, with a fifth (20%) of jobs paying below the Real Living Wage - a problem that could intensify as competition for jobs increases as a result of COVID-19. 

It also states that one of the key challenges facing West Yorkshire is the number of people with no or low-level qualifications, and under-investment in training by employers, as 39% of local employers acknowledge that they under-invest in the kinds of training that would benefit their businesses.  

More information about the Labour Market Information Report can be found here.