Delivering inclusive growth through progression, skills and business

Education and business across Leeds City Region are inextricably linked. The importance of our young people having access to training and qualifications that will lead them to rewarding employment is vital, as is having a pipeline of talent to meet the demands of businesses.

The skills agenda is clearly an important one. It is a key driver in delivering inclusive growth, a subject very much in the headlines over recent weeks and one which the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is already leading the way on.

These factors were amongst the driving forces for the LEP’s recent launch, in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, of our landmark Delivery Agreements with West Yorkshire’s seven colleges.

This triumvirate have a shared aspiration to ensure that the publicly funded training provision in the City Region delivers what’s needed for individuals, communities and businesses.

These agreements set out a joint plan to greater align college training provision and outputs with the needs of the Leeds City Region economy, including the £56m per annum Adult Education Budget. They also focus on the sectors which have been identified as those with acute skills shortages, including engineering and manufacturing, health and care, infrastructure and digital.

The delivery agreements will contribute to our inclusive growth by prioritising outcomes for some of Leeds City Region’s most disadvantaged groups. They will also increase the levels of apprenticeships starts, and contribute to increased higher and degree apprenticeship provision.

Allied to this new and innovative approach to delivering inclusive growth through skills, the LEP and Combined Authority continue to work tirelessly in this important agenda under other umbrella initiatives.

Three areas of particular focus are skills support for in-work claimants, progression from low pay and employer engagements with school children.

Focusing on skills support for in-work claimants, the LEP was delighted to support the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (WYCC) as it secured funding totalling £5.5m under its new Joint Venture agreement.

This new funding will support two new WYCC projects and builds further on our partnerships with West Yorkshire’s colleges through the Delivery Agreements.

The projects will tackle in-work poverty through skills development, support individuals who don’t traditionally engage with training, increase labour and social mobility and greater earning potential, reduce the gender employment and wage gap, and reduce the risk of underemployment.

Looking at progression from low pay our latest research, part of a partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, shows that a sector-based approach to support could help to address in-work poverty in the City Region.

Why is this important? Well, at a UK-level, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) now estimates households with at least one member in employment now account for the majority of working-age households in poverty.

Our report concluded that a sector-based approach provided a logical and tailored point of entry through which to support businesses to improve staff progression and, in turn, address low pay and in-work poverty.

For organisations like the LEP that offer support to businesses, the report found that sectors provided a logical and simplified entry point through which to contact businesses, allowing them to provide workforce development programmes, funding and alignment with City Region economic priorities.

The evidence gathered from this report demonstrates the value of this approach and will continue to shape our strategy moving forward.

Finally, the LEP continues to improve the employability skills and career aspirations of secondary school students in Leeds City Region through our Enterprise Adviser Network.

The initiative brings real and regular business experience to students 11 to 18 years old by recruiting leaders in business to work, voluntarily, with senior school leadership to shape the schools’ careers and employment strategy.

Handpicked by the Cabinet Office as one of only five pilot programmes UK-wide, the success of the initiative in Leeds City Region has since seen the roll out of the programme in 34 additional regions across the country.

The initiative has been a great success, facilitating 26,000 employer engagements with school children across Leeds City Region over the last 10 months, while more than 100 business leaders and over 130 schools have been connected since February 2016.

In conclusion, clearly much progress has been made by the LEP and Combined Authority in delivering inclusive growth through skills. But there is still much to be done. And we, and our partners, will continue to work tirelessly to achieve the best outcomes for all City Region residents.

A landmark partnership

The development of unique ‘Delivery Agreements’ for each of the seven West Yorkshire colleges, is a UK first.

The partnerships go beyond the £56m per annum Adult Education Budget (AEB) and also include adult apprenticeships budgets, 16 to 18 apprenticeships and traineeships, advanced learner loans and bursaries, the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers as well as commercial income.

The agreements publicly outline how each college will contribute to the Leeds City Region Employment and Skills Plan Skilled People, Better Jobs 2016-2020 and subsequently the needs of the City Region economy.