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West Midlands Levelling Up Growth Prospectus


The Challenge

To realise successful post-pandemic growth the region needs to address key labour market challenges:

  • High unemployment and growing in-workpoverty in some parts of the region;
  • Low skill levels in the population, withfewer people qualified to Level 4+, andmore people with no qualifications,compared to other areas;
  • 83% of residents in the combined authorityarea are qualified to Level 1 (vs 88% UK),72% to Level 2 (vs 78% UK) and 54% toLevel 3 (vs 61% UK);
  • Around 1 in 4 vacancies in the region areclassed as ‘hard to fill’, particularly in rolesthat require advanced and/or higher skills;
  • Uneven development and attainment byyoung people through early years, primary,secondary, tertiary education and training;
  • The West Midlands has some significantconcentrations of residents who areunemployed, for example in Birminghamthe rate is 11.4%, inactive or in low paidwork and on benefits (125,505 in-workUniversal Credit claimants).

The Prize

A co-ordinated regional approach to skills and employment will drive up productivity, skills and living standards in the West Midlands. We’ll look to adopt a demand-led strategy with a comprehensive view of what is needed for both high-growth clusters and for the foundational economy. 

At a regional level, we can encourage change while minimising the risk of narrowly-focused sector plans. We’ll still enable a place-based approach to deliver a differentiated service that targets those who need support most — integrated data to support this work would be more cost-effective and support better outcomes for young people.

By 2030, the number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high quality-skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest skilled areas.

Progress So Far…

We’re keen to build on the success of previous devolution and our Skills Deal, to maximise our economic potential through improving productivity and aligning the regional skills offer to regional needs. 

Our ability to use devolved funds has helped us focus on tackling key local needs:

  • 33% increase in provision aligned to localpriorities, including 66% increase in newdigital courses;
  • Over 2,500 digital skills enrolments atLevel 3 through AEB and bootcamps;
  • £7.3m spent on construction training,compared with £4.8m pre-devolution;
  • 6% increase in those qualified to NVQ Level3+ since 2018, rising from 49% to 55%;
  • 8x increase in business and professionallearners at level 3 since devolution,rising from 150 pre-devolution to 1,150 in2020/21.

Our Proposal

We’ve been hampered by a lack of local engagement from the National Career Service (NCS), meaning, in particular, our young people not in education or work have suffered from a lack of support. 

Across the CA area, the proportion of young people who are not in education, employment, or training (NEET) is higher than the UK average, for example, in Wolverhampton the youth claimant count is double the national average. At present, no single organisation is accountable for 16 to 24-year-olds NEET.

Therefore, we propose an integrated skills and employment system composed of:

  1. Leadership of an enhanced Local Skills Improvement Plan, providing greater responsibility for technical and vocational training in the region to create a clear and integrated offer for employers and learners that will drive up higher-level skills.
  2. Devolution of careers and establishment of a post-16 data hub to better support those young people and adults who are most vulnerable to labour market change, to navigate a more integrated skills offer, and access high value labour market opportunities.
  3. Co-commissioning Employment Support, meaning programmes respond quickly and effectively to local labour market challenges and better meet the needs of residents, businesses, and the West Midlands economy. 


What We Hope to Achieve

  • An increase in the percentage of thoseaged 16-18 in sustained education, apprenticeships or employment;
  • A decrease in the percentage of residentsaged 25-39 years old whose highestqualifications are NVQ2 and below;
  • Increased number of apprenticeship starts;
  • Increased percentage of young peopleachieving GCSEs in English and Maths byage 19;
  • Increased graduate retention;
  • Narrowing of the gap between areas ofhigh and low unemployment.