Government unveils £69m deal to improve digital skills

The government has revealed details of a new £69m skills deal for the West Midlands aimed at boosting levels of digital competency in both young people and adults.

The skills deal agreed with the West Midlands Combined Authority is aimed at boosting digital and technical skills, then in turn, increasing job opportunities and productivity across the region.

To help boost the region’s digital and cyber skills government will launch a new Local Digital Skills Partnership in the West Midlands bringing together regional businesses, local authorities and educational institutes to tackle the digital skills gap and support the growth of the local economy.

The government will co-fund the new skills deal, alongside employer funding, with the WMCA investing £20m through its own Skills Plan.

The new deal includes:

  • Creating hundreds of new apprenticeships at SMEs in priority areas, including in construction, automotive and digital sectors – helping increasing job opportunities for all.
  • A multi-million investment in local colleges – ensuring they have access to the latest equipment and facilities to teach the skills the region and the country need, including digital, and construction.
  • Up to £5m to work with employers to develop a National Retraining Scheme (NRS) pilot to drive adult learning and retraining.
  • £1m to boost Edtech and the way it supports adult learners in the West Midlands.
  • £1m to improve careers advice for young people, including a new careers hub in the West Midlands.
  • Piloting an innovative online portal for businesses to share work experience opportunities with schools.

The government said some of the UK’s most acute skills challenges were found within the West Midlands and the skills deal was aimed at reversing this.

The new deal builds on the work already underway through the  Industrial Strategy, which aims to boost productivity and economic growth. It includes investing in maths, digital and technical education to help generate well-paid, highly skilled jobs across the country.

Announcing the deal at Dudley College during a visit to the region, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “The West Midlands is the engine of our thriving economy, but we want to make sure even more local people have the skills they need to get on in life, while also boosting the region’s productivity and technical expertise.

“This new skills deal will provide the right investment so that both young people and adults have the chance to learn, upskill, retrain and take advantage of the range of exciting jobs in areas such as construction, cyber security and digital technology.

“By supporting apprenticeships in small and medium sized businesses, more people will be able to earn and learn and the focus on digital and technical skills, which are both in high demand, will help people to get the skills they need to get the jobs of tomorrow.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, added: “Every time I speak to businesses in West Midlands, the number one issue that keeps getting fed back to me as the barrier for growth is skills.

“We know best the challenges facing West Midlands businesses and, among the colleges and educational institutions, we know how to tackle them.

“This deal means more apprenticeships and more money for adult education, career advice and technical education which is brilliant news for both businesses and young people. But perhaps more importantly, this new way of working with government means we have new powers and resource to help deliver the right outcomes for the West Midlands and for government.”