Skills and training at centre of West Yorkshire agenda for COVID-19 recovery

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) working with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority continue to make skills and training a key priority through the pandemic.

With the number of people claiming out of work benefits in West Yorkshire almost doubling to 109,475 from March to the end of September, business leaders from across the region at today’s LEP Board meeting have discussed the range of initiatives put in place by the Combined Authority and LEP to help people of all ages maintain and develop skills, and find work.

These include creating at-home learning resources to help young people; expanded efforts to help out-of-work or furloughed adults retrain; and implementing the recommendations of the Future-Ready Skills Commission at the centre of a new skills plan that is being developed for the region.

Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of the LEP and the NP11 group of northern local enterprise partnerships, said: “The effect of COVID-19 has been devastating for so many people and businesses in our region, with the number of people out of work almost doubling since March.  

“The pandemic has redoubled our commitment to making sure everyone can find the right skills and training to help them get on in life and make ours a productive economy that works for everyone.”

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the Future-Ready Skills Commission, and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “Combined Authorities are best-placed to understand what skills our changing economy needs both now and in the future, and design programmes to address this.  

“Exploring how we can implement the Future-Ready Skills Commission’s recommendations is a key part of our efforts to support the people of West Yorkshire as we recover from the pandemic and give everyone the means and opportunity to train and get on in life.”

Since the start of the first lockdown in March, the LEP and West Yorkshire Combined Authority have:

Redeveloped the LEP’s FutureGoals site to offer careers and skills guidance for people of all ages. FutureGoals Remote being launched over summer, offering interactive activities to help young people develop skills in-demand by employers at home during the lockdown.

Targetted the part European Social Fund-funded FutureGoals [re]boot adult retraining programme to graduates, furloughed staff, and those unemployed through COVID-19. The programme offers 24 online courses, giving adults the chance to upskill in the key areas of construction, manufacturing and engineering, and the fast-growing digital and creative sectors.

Received over 500 individual and 70 business enquiries to the LEP’s Employment Hub by late October. The service, which is also part-funded by the European Social Fund, matches jobseekers to opportunities across the region. More than a third (36%) of business enquiries requested recruitment support and a fifth (19%) support to hire an apprentice.

The LEP and Combined Authority have also agreed to implement key recommendations from the independent Future-Ready Skills Commission chaired by Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe. The Commission’s findings will used to inform the creation of the region’s new Employment and Skills Plan for 2021-25, as well as addressing digital skills needs in West Yorkshire.  

As the Combined Authority takes responsibility for West Yorkshire’s Adult Education Budget (AEB) from August 2021, it will expand the successful use of delivery agreements with FE colleges as recommended by the Commission, to make the skills system more responsive to local needs.

The Commission’s findings have also been incorporated in the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Plan to identify the priorities for employment and skills in the short, medium and long term.

The Future-Ready Skills Commission issued its final report in September 2020, setting out a blueprint for a devolved post-16 adult skills system, with a focus technical education, workforce skills and careers information.

Find more information about the Future-Ready Skills Commission and the recommendations from its final report