Schemes putting the West Midlands at the forefront of technical education in the UK have been hailed as a huge boost for the region by Mayor Andy Street ahead of negotiations with the Government over a new ‘skills deal’.
Two key announcements made by Education Secretary Damian Hinds put the West Midlands in the vanguard of the Government’s efforts to enhance technical education in important growth sectors.
First, the Government announced that of 16 national bids shortlisted to create Institutes of Technology, three are bids supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority (Dudley College, Solihull College and a bid by North Warwickshire College and South Leicestershire College).
T levels are equivalent to A levels and will be introduced in 2020-2021 in eight schools across the WMCA area.
The successful bids will receive a share of £170m from Government to develop centres focused on technical disciplines.
Second, the Education Secretary also announced the educational providers who have been chosen to pioneer T Levels as they are introduced in 2020-2021, with eight of the 52 nationally in the WMCA area.
T Levels are the Government’s flagship policy to boost technical education, equal in quality and prestige to A Levels, for young people from the age of 16.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “I have repeatedly said that going into my second year as Mayor, skills is the biggest challenge we must tackle as a region.
“Almost every business I speak to in the West Midlands tells me skills is the biggest challenge they face.
“In the last year, the West Midlands has negotiated a ‘devolution deal’ with Government to secure new powers and funding for the region and a ‘housing deal’ which brought more than £300m to the West Midlands to supercharge our house building.
“Next on the agenda is a deal around skills which can help us to provide the adult training and skills provision to help our region’s key sectors, particularly advanced engineering and construction.
“Quite simply, we need a deal that ensures our young people get the skills they need for jobs now and throughout their lifetimes.
“The news about the shortlisted projects for the Institutes of Technology and the T Level providers is a huge boost ahead of this as it demonstrates the Government is on the same page when it comes to realigning our skills agenda to meet the needs of our businesses.”
Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and WMCA lead member for skills for the WMCA said: “We know from our employers that getting technical skills right is critical to the future success of our industries and businesses.
“The WMCA is working closely with businesses, trade unions, and colleges and universities across the region to help develop the skills that our economy needs.”
The eight initial providers of T Levels in the West Midlands Combined Authority announced by the Department for Education are:
The first three T level courses to be developed are education and childcare, digital, and construction, with a further 22 courses being rolled out from 2023.
The courses have been created by employers to make sure young people have the knowledge and skills needed to gain jobs.
They include a three-month compulsory industry placement to give young people real experience of the workplace.