More and better jobs for a thriving future workforce

Stephanie Burras is the founder and Chief Executive of Ahead Partnership, a member of the LEP Board and Chair of the LEP’s Employment and Skills Panel. Here, she talks about how the LEP is supporting businesses and young people to build skills for the future.

This month, students and teachers across the Leeds City Region wait anxiously to find out their exam results and start to carve their future career path. Businesses will also be thinking about taking on young people who are looking to learn a new trade or embark on a future career.

There are many options for young people to consider including a diverse range of technical and academic routes into Further and Higher Education, apprenticeships and traineeships. We are fortunate in this City Region to have world class and world leading education institutions coupled with a diverse business base of over 109,000 businesses, offering many routes to building an exciting and rewarding career in the City Region.

The LEP’s ambition is to help grow a skilled and flexible workforce across our region, creating more and better quality jobs for a modern and growing economy. In order to develop and grow, businesses need to be able to source the highly skilled employees that they need. This means improving their current workforce skills as well as building workplace skills in education to support young people onto the career ladder, providing a long-term pipeline of talent.

The skills to grow your business

Since the launch of the LEP’s skills service earlier this year, we have helped over 120 companies across the region to identify skills gaps within their businesses and we have committed over £300,000 to help them find the right training for their staff. One business that benefitted from this support is Wakefield firm, Custompac. This manufacturing business took advantage of the LEP skills service to access training for their staff to support the design and production of a greater range of products. As a result, the company have been able to provide a better service to existing customers and secure new business. According to Jeremy Smith, Director of Custompac, the funding has enabled his business to advance staff skills and stay ahead of the competition. With funding available through the skills service until spring 2017, many more small and medium sized businesses will be able to take advantage of this offer.

Developing talent in young people

However we also need to foster workplace skills within our schools and expose young people to the real life experience of a working environment. There is already a wealth of good work being done by partners across the region on this front. In addition to this, the LEP has enabled over 100 business volunteers to work with a third of the secondary schools in our region, through our enterprise adviser programme. They have been linked to school leadership teams to advise on how to better integrate enterprise within the curriculum. This initiative has recently been awarded further funding from the government which means we can now extend the programme to even more schools. I would really like to encourage business leaders to consider becoming an adviser and also to involve your staff in different business activities that are taking place in schools and colleges. They provide a unique perspective to young people about the working world.

We also want to help businesses to explore new ways of working they may not have considered, such as taking on an apprentice. In a recent business survey of over 3,000 companies in the region, over 25% confirmed they plan to take on an apprentice in the next 12 months. Our apprenticeship programme has now supported 2,300 businesses to take on an apprentice, and we have just launched a new financial incentives scheme to support businesses take on young people with an apprenticeship. Up to £2,000 is available as a grant to businesses in West Yorkshire and York when they take on an apprentice for the first time or if they haven’t had an apprentice in the last 12 months.

What next?

Over the last three years we have made excellent progress towards reducing the number of young people that are not in education, training or employment in this region. Whilst more remains to be done on youth unemployment, we are also turning our attention to working with businesses to create higher skilled, higher quality jobs. This involves focusing on sectors that are experiencing rapid growth and continuing our work with education and skills partners to ensure that local people have the skills they need to access those jobs and be productive.

If you’d like more information about the support available to businesses to develop and grow their workforce click here. Or share your views on this blog on Twitter @LeedsCityRegion.