Combined Authority unveils £25 million boost for adult skills

£25 million will be used to help adults get better jobs in the West Midlands.

Thousands of adults will benefit from better skills and jobs thanks to a £25 million training boost in the West Midlands.

The investment means unemployed adults and those in low-paid jobs will have the chance to gain vital skills for jobs in the region’s fastest-growing industries. Adults earning less than the real living wage in the West Midlands will be able to access a number of training courses for free. Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said:

“We want everyone in the region to benefit from our booming industrial sectors such as digital and construction – but we need to help them access the right skills training to get jobs in these industries. This £25m skills boost will do exactly that.

“We’ll use this funding to get more unemployed adults into jobs, provide free training for low earners, and upskill thousands so they can get even better jobs and earn more money.

“The Combined Authority is incredibly passionate about getting as many people into work as possible, which is why we launched our new work placement scheme last week and have today announced this latest funding boost.”

The funding comes from the devolved £126m adult education budget (AEB), now managed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The WMCA has already committed to provide the region’s colleges and local authority adult education providers with the same level of funding they received in 2017/18 – around £98m of the total £126m AEB. The remaining £28m of the devolved AEB was put out to tender, with contracts worth £25.1m awarded to 21 training providers and 46 sub-contractors, the majority of which are based in the West Midlands region.

From the 21 providers, 62% are based in the region, up from just 10% last year, with 71% of subcontractors based in the West Midlands, up from 17% last year. The £25m includes £10m to help unemployed people get the skills they need to get a job and £11m to help those already in work, but in low-paid jobs, to upskill and boost their earning potential.

Many West Midlands employers in the region’s fastest-growing sectors say they are struggling to fill one in four vacancies due to a lack of local people with the right skills. This includes careers in the digital, construction, advanced manufacturing, engineering and the business and professional services sectors. To fill this gap, the WMCA has targeted adult education around the technical skills required by these sectors, boosting the number of Level 3 qualification courses available (equivalent to A-levels) so thousands of adults can get the skills needed to claim these jobs.

The WMCA Board has also agreed to use the adult education budget to support thousands of low-paid adult residents to access training courses for free.

Adults earning less than the national living wage of £9 per hour, as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, will be able to access Level 1 and Level 2 courses for free. This goes further than a recent Government trial which provided free training for those on less than £8.21 per hour – and is particularly targeted at those with low, or no, qualifications. Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills said:

“Taking control of the adult education budget for the region gives us real control over how skills training is delivered here. We know our digital, construction, engineering and manufacturing industries are enjoying substantial economic growth, and we want everyone who lives here to have the chance to share in this.

“By setting really clear priorities in our regional skills plan, and tying this slice of the adult education budget closely to these priorities, we feel we can make a real difference to those in low-paid jobs, those who want to upskill, and adults trying to find their way into a really great career in the West Midlands.”

The £25m AEB funding award is separate to the £5m ‘Beat the Bots’ fund for digital training announced by the Mayor earlier this month, and the work placements programme for young unemployed people launched on May 21. The new courses will be available in the region from September 2019.


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