An ambitious £11 million programme to improve the skills of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire’s workforce is getting under way.
The money will be spent on a range of training initiatives over the next two years in areas including improving employees’ basic skills so they can progress into more responsible roles, advanced and specialised training to help create a more highly skilled workforce and re-skilling schemes for people facing redundancy.
A total of £7 million is coming from the EU’s European Social Fund, with the remainder in match-funding from the government’s Skills Funding Agency, to fund projects across the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership area. The aim is to focus on the needs of the local economy and help employers identify skills gaps, develop their staff and become more competitive – resulting in a growing economy with a skilled workforce able to respond to new opportunities.
The four strands of the new Skills Support for the Workforce programme are:
- Training in basic skills, such as Maths and English, for people who are already in work, so that they can develop their skills and gain promotion. This strand aims to tackle the problems faced by employers in some parts of the LEP area where the proportion of the workforce without any qualifications is up to twice the national average.
- Intermediate and higher-level skills training for people in work to help employers keep pace with the changing skills needs of an advanced economy, and tackle gaps in the skills mix. This strand aims to bring the proportion of people throughout the LEP area with level 4 (foundation degree) skills up to the national average
- General re-skilling and help with firms’ succession planning to bring on new staff as older, experienced workers retire.
- Training and re-skilling for people being made redundant.
The four strands of the programme are being run by Learndirect, Serco and Skills Staffordshire, in partnership with other local training providers.
LEP chairman David Frost CBE commented: “A highly skilled workforce is key to our aims of creating a thriving local economy, attracting inward investment and helping businesses to grow.
“Helping people to improve their skills and retrain where necessary is vital in developing a well-qualified, enthusiastic workforce with a can-do attitude. That will result in more and better-paid jobs for our area, helping our communities to flourish.”
Ben Adams, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Learning and Skills, said: “This is part of a much larger programme of investment in jobs and skills, which will help reduce unemployment even further in Staffordshire by offering practical help to let jobless people overcome whatever obstacles are in their way.
“It also improves the skills of people in work to improve their employability and their employers’ productivity.”
Councillor Janine Bridges, Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet member for economy and education, said: “We want to support people into work and give them the opportunities to develop the skills to succeed. We’re already investing in a £1m maths hub to train and retrain maths teachers in the city, increasing attainment in schools. Ensuring that workforces have the opportunity to grow is essential for business growth too – employees are the biggest asset in any company.
“By investing in support for our businesses and local workforce it shows how serious we are in improving the knowledge and skills base of the local economy.
“Stoke-on-Trent is the fourth fastest growing economy in the country and we are going to need skilled people for the jobs that we are creating.”
Employers seeking to develop the skills of their staff should contact the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Business Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email email@example.com to find out how Skills Support for the Workforce can help them.