Local businesses and residents in the West Midlands are to benefit from half a billion-pounds of investment in skills training over the next three years, as it’s revealed that West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) funded training helped more than 135,000 people gain new skills during the course of the pandemic.
The WMCA has finalised plans to allocate the £515 million with the aim of helping local people gain skills and qualifications, progress into jobs and support wider ambitions for inclusive green economic growth.
These plans will move the region closer to a more joined-up approach - bringing responsibility for more service delivery closer to the West Midlands and away from Whitehall.
Image caption (L-R): Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, Alvera Scattliffe a SWAP Learner, James Murphy – Hagley Training Centre Manager, Rishi Bhatt - Employer and Candidate Engagement and Kerry Davis – Digital Marketing.
Despite a struggling economy due to the effects of the pandemic and other global trends, the region’s job market has stayed strong in part thanks to the WMCA’s use of their Adult Education Budget. Across the West Midlands region, 2.9 million people are now in employment, reflecting a record-breaking employment rate of 75.9%.
The WMCA uses its devolved AEB to commission local training and bootcamp providers to quickly train up people with the skills the region’s businesses need in sectors such as care, construction and security.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and Chair of the WMCA, said:
“As we bounce back from Covid, linking up our local talent with the plentiful opportunities on offer in industry is absolutely central to my 100k jobs plan. That’s why it really is such phenomenal news that our funding has been able to help train more than 135,000 people through the difficulties of the pandemic.
“Now to build on that we have a new landmark skills investment of more than half a billion pounds made possible thanks to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. That means we can get even more people trained in the skills of the future to help them take advantage of the high-quality, well-paid jobs on offer.
“A key part of my mayoral mission is to provide routes into high-quality well-paid employment so that the young people in our region have prospects ahead to excite them and keep them and their families here in the years ahead.”
The new skills transformation plan, agreed by the WMCA board last month, will bring new investment and programmes into the mix, including new bootcamps in retrofit, digital and healthcare – building on the successful pilots delivered in the region.
On top of this, the CA is also introducing a new innovation programme called Multiply, which was specifically designed to help adults in work improve their maths and offer more support for communities with financial literacy helping them to navigate through the challenges associated with cost-of-living increases.
Additionally, the WMCA Board has approved plans to channel a proportion of the new investment through UKSPF to deliver support for local businesses to help them flourish and grow, bringing in new talent and navigating new challenges such as digitisation and moving to net zero.
The funding will also be used to support many local communities who were hit hardest by the pandemic. The WMCA Board has agreed to fund targeted skills and training including digital literacy as well as specific occupational training in jobs that are in demand, to support residents in moving back to work.
Cllr George Duggins, the WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills and leader of Coventry City Council, added: “There is major investment happening across the West Midlands but this growth will only be sustained if we harness our greatest asset – our people.
“That’s why skills is now our number one priority and why the region’s businesses, education sector and local government are coming together under this plan with a commitment to deliver inclusive growth - giving people the skills needed to land good jobs and careers in the years ahead.”