Wakefield Council welcomes new funding for skills service

DateL 05/02/2015

We have welcomed today's announcement of £17.5m for a new skills service for local businesses in the Leeds City Region, which includes the Wakefield district.

The funding, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne on a visit to West Yorkshire, will put money into the hands of small and medium size businesses (SMEs) in key sectors identified by the City Region's Enterprise Partnership (LEP) so they can invest in building the skills of their workforce, enabling them to develop and grow.

The money comes through the Government's Employer Ownership Pilot and follows the recent allocation of £54.6m to the Leeds City Region from the Government's Local Growth Deals for skills, business support, innovation, housing and regeneration.  The new skills service will work alongside existing employment initiatives, including LEP apprenticeship hubs.

Wakefield Council Leader Cllr Peter Box CBE welcomed this further funding specifically for a new skills service for SMEs as a big boost for the Wakefield district economy and an important step in devolving more power from Whitehall to the Leeds City Region so money can be spent where it was needed most.

"This means we can create more opportunities both in the wider region and in the Wakefield district. Small and medium size businesses need support to build the skills they need from their workforces so they can expand and take advantage of emerging markets, getting into shape to compete and to contribute to the local economy.

"This funding will support young people to gain the skills they need to get jobs with good prospects and I am looking forward to seeing this funding having a real impact on this district,"  said Cllr Box

Joanne Roney OBE, Chief Executive of Wakefield Council and LEP Chief Executive Lead on Employment and Skills said:  "This announcement is excellent news. Addressing the skills deficit across the Leeds City Region has been a priority for the LEP for many years. Preparing our people with the higher level skills needed in the emerging economy is imperative if we are to remain competitive in a global labour marketplace."

The pilot project is designed to build skills in the sectors which present the greatest opportunities for economic and employment growth – manufacturing and engineering, low carbon and construction, creative and digital, finance and businesses, hospitality and tourism, healthcare and medical technology and transport and logistics.

Ms Roney said: "Many of these sectors are represented in the Wakefield district and the new skills service will give employers access to flexible funding to support their needs through a grants system.  The SMEs will have to contribute half of the costs of training, but the grant aid will be a real incentive for them to move their workforces forward to get the skills they need for the 21st century."