Combined Authority puts skills and training at centre of West Yorkshire’s economic recovery

Combined Authority implementing new programmes to support employment and skills across the region

Helping people gain new skills to get them back into employment and supporting training over the long-term is at the centre of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s efforts to help the region’s economy recover from COVID-19.  

At Thursday’s meeting of the Combined Authority, members were updated on its programmes to match job-seekers with available opportunities and develop skills in demand in the local labour market. 

The Combined Authority also discussed plans to take over responsibility for the £63 million Adult Education Budget as part of the West Yorkshire devolution deal agreed in March.  

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “As we emerge from COVID-19, we have to help people get the right skills so that they can get a good job. Only then will we be able to develop a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable economy that works for everyone.

“The programmes the Combined Authority has put in place are designed to support the economy now and build a long term future where people can make the most of their potential.”

To help West Yorkshire recover from COVID-19, the Combined Authority has moved swiftly to implement new programmes to support employment and skills across the region.  

The Employment Hub programme, delivered by the Combined Authority along with Local Authority partners, has been adapted to expand its support for businesses and match jobseekers to opportunities across the region. Despite the recent rise in jobless claims in the region, there is a wide range of job vacancies available, in sectors like social care and with businesses adapting to the new demands and challenges caused by COVID-19.  

The Combined Authority and partners have also developed online courses as part of its [re]boot adult re-training programme, aimed at helping individuals to gain digital skills in high demand by local employers, including digital marketing, data analysis, productivity and coding.

FutureGoalsRemote, is a brand-new series of free, interactive activities to help young people develop skills from home during the lockdown. The activities feature baseline skills identified by employers in the latest Leeds City Region Labour Market Information Report, including digital, communication, problem solving and creative skills, and are designed to help young people to develop their employability and careers awareness.

Over the long term, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority plans to make sure that skills provision in West Yorkshire meets the needs of the region’s businesses. From August 2021, it plans to take over responsibility for the £63 million a year Adult Education Budget (AEB), as a key part of the landmark devolution deal West Yorkshire’s council leaders agreed with the Government in March 2020.  

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority has set out a strategy to improve the impact of AEB in West Yorkshire, and has launched a consultation calling for feedback from interested parties. The consultation runs until midnight on 12 July - more details can be found here.

These measures come as the latest figures show the impact of COVID-19 on employment across the region. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), between March and May the number of jobless claimants in West Yorkshire increased by 49,600 (87%) across West Yorkshire to a total of 106,700.  

The claimant rate rose to 7.3% from 3.9% - above the national average of 6.5% - while 256,000 roles were supported through furlough at the end of May, equivalent to around 28% of employees, a similar proportion to the national average.