Colleges in West Yorkshire have agreed a “landmark” partnership with the combined authority to align their annual £56 million adult education budget provision while it waits for an official devolution deal to happen.
The authority – made up of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York councils, and Leeds city region enterprise partnership – has the region’s seven colleges on board with the scheme, which aims to address “acute skills shortages” faced by the area.
Each college has its own targets it needs to reach as part of the partnership, including increasing starts on higher-level apprenticeship courses, improving the proportion of full-time courses with a work experience element, and increasing its income from apprenticeships.
It is hoped that by reaching these targets, the colleges will help to narrow the skills gap in Leeds’ major sectors of manufacturing and engineering, health and care, infrastructure and digital.
The partnership has been created while the combined authority progresses with plans for a full devolution deal, which FE Week understands is in its very early stages.
Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, skills lead for the West Yorkshire’s combined authority and leader of Bradford council, said she was “immensely pleased” with the new partnership.
“It is paramount that our young people, particularly those hardest to reach, have access to training and qualifications that will lead them to rewarding employment,” she said.
“By realigning this £56 million annual spend, we can ensure that young people have the right skills to gain access to well paid jobs that meet the demands of our businesses.”
The seven colleges in the partnership are Bradford College Group, Calderdale College, Kirklees College, Leeds City College, Leeds College of Building, Shipley College and Wakefield College.
Ian Billyard, principal of Leeds College of Building said that by working with the combined authority, his college had “identified how we will improve our links with employers, grow our apprenticeship offer and develop our pathways to higher-level learning to address the skills shortages in our sector and bring affordable, high-quality education to the young people of the north.”
Andy Welsh, chief executive of Bradford College Group said he was “keen to develop” his college’s “career-focused provision further and in alignment with the needs of the Leeds City Region economy”.
“In partnership with the combined authority and with a renewed focus, we will continue to work to support the needs of Bradford residents and beyond, from the most disadvantaged to those accessing degree level training. Bradford College Group fully endorses this partnership.”