Raise skills levels to help improve economy

​Date: 23/01/2015

We are calling on the district's employers to invest in upskilling their workforce to drive economic growth and keep local talent in the area.

Earlier this week the think-tank 'Centre for Cities' published a study showing that just 20 per cent of people living in Wakefield have a high-level qualification.

Additional data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the average wage in Wakefield remains low.

Cllr Peter Box CBE, Leader of Wakefield Council said; "Our young people are leaving school with excellent GSCE results yet we are bottom of the league for high skills.

"Raising skills levels has to be a priority for employers across the board along with more local opportunities for people to access higher level education. This is why we must continue to drive forward our bid to create a University Centre for Wakefield and have made it a key priority to support local businesses.

"Without this focus the cycle of low skills and low wages will continue, potentially driving away local talent and damaging the district's ability to grow its economy.

"There is no doubt that the Government's continuous cuts to our budget make any investment a major challenge and leaves us with very hard choices to make. But I firmly believe that the way forward for economic growth is through having access to higher levels of skills and we have a duty to continue to invest to support this."

Recent months have seen the proportion of Wakefield young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) at their lowest recorded rates.

Fewer than one in 20 young people aged 16 to 19 are now classed as NEET – over two hundred fewer than two years ago.

A breakdown of the figures shows in Dec 2014, there were 527 young people in the NEETs category. In December 2012, as many as 728 young people were classified as NEETS.

The Council works hard with its partners in Connexions, schools and colleges to get young people engaged in into a positive outcome and the approach was recently praised by Ofsted.

Wakefield Council is working closely with Wakefield College to secure capital investment to create a University Centre. The Centre would provide higher level provision to young adults across the district and support businesses, allowing them to access graduates and degree level training for their workforce.

Wakefield Council's chief executive Joanne Roney OBE said: "One of our key priorities is to attract more highly skilled businesses and jobs to the district and as part of this it is vital that we, and our local employers, continue to invest in raising skill levels.

"We are working, as part of the Leeds City Region (LCR) to support businesses to access a skills fund that will subsidise training and development and help employers unlock the potential of people within their business.

"Wakefield Council already has strong links with Leeds Becket University, who now provide an 'innovation hub' to support the growth of local employers. But we also remain fully determined to bring a University Centre to Wakefield and will continue to support its development."

Any employers interested in finding out how Wakefield Council can support local business should contact Economic Development on 01924 306003 or visit www.wakefieldfirst.com