West Yorkshire Combined Authority seeks input on the future of adult education and skills

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority has launched a consultation into future of the Adult Education Budget across West Yorkshire and is calling for feedback from interested parties.

27 May 2020

From August 2021 the Combined Authority 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 Government in March 2020. The AEB helps adults develop the skills they need to enter and stay in work, or enroll in an apprenticeship, traineeship, or other learning. 

The consultation into the AEB Strategy aims to review, refine and develop priorities for Adult Education Budget-funded learning over the short, medium and long term. The draft strategy builds on the Combined Authority’s existing adult skills strategies and the needs of the region’s businesses. 

Cllr Susan Hinchliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said:

“Taking over responsibility for the Adult Education Budget means we can target adult skills and training to the needs of our local economy and make them relevant to the people and businesses of West Yorkshire.  

“Many of the people who become jobless as a result of the COVID-19 crisis may require support to develop the skills that will be in demand as our jobs market changes. Better workforce skills will also help our economy recover and prepare for future opportunities.”

Cllr Shabir Pandor, Chair of the Inclusive Growth and Public Policy Panel, and Leader of Kirklees Council, said:

“Improving skills for adults in West Yorkshire through the Adult Education Budget is one of the most powerful and effective ways we can make a real difference to people’s lives and help them reach their potential

“A more highly-skilled workforce will mean better jobs, people being able to enjoy a higher standard of living, and more opportunities for our communities.”

West Yorkshire is the largest labour market in the Northern Powerhouse with a workforce of 1.1 million people, including the largest number of manufacturing jobs in the North, a large professional services sector and a fast-growing digital sector.

The AEB will help the 380,000 people, or 26% of the working age population, who have low or no qualifications and are disadvantaged in the labour market to connect to these opportunities by providing training that increases their skill level.

The Combined Authority is proposing that AEB funding is used to increase the supply of skills to support key sectors, particularly those identified in West Yorkshire’s forthcoming Local Industrial Strategy and improve West Yorkshire’s resilience by identifying and delivering the skills needed for the future.

It will also make learning more inclusive to support disadvantaged residents and widen the pool of talent for business , support the unemployed to gain and sustain employment, and unlock progression opportunities and career adaptability through skills - particularly for those on low wages and with insecure work.

The Combined Authority plans to take over responsibility for AEB as a result of the ambitious Devolution deal signed with Government in March 2020, which is also currently the subject of a public consultation.

Devolution for West Yorkshire will unlock significant long-term funding, give the region greater freedom to decide how best to meet local needs and create new opportunity, and see a directly-elected mayor for the region from May 2021.

The Combined Authority is interested in responses to its AEB consultation from stakeholders including training providers that operate across West Yorkshire, sector representative bodies, local authorities, and wider skills sector stakeholders such as careers services, Jobcentre Plus and universities.

The Combined Authority is also interested in responses from those who hold existing grant agreements and contracts for services with the ESFA, along with those who aspire to deliver within the system.

Feedback will have a direct influence in shaping the final AEB Strategy and will form the base of AEB commissioning in Autumn 2020.