Growing the economy by helping to up-skill the population

Published 13th February 2017 at 3:30pm

By Nigel Brewster, Vice Chair, Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership

The Sheffield City Region (SCR) is here to serve the almost 2million people of the region, by driving economic growth and jobs. Regionally we are now well aware that there are skills gaps in many sectors, and our Local Enterprise Board is tackling this in a straightforward and practical way – establishing initiatives that provide end-to-end support for people, whatever their needs.

It was good to see one of our projects, the RISE programme, singled out for praise in Theresa May’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper. RISE places graduates in small and medium-sized enterprises which are looking for fresh talent: collaboration with our two universities and the private sector has already enabled us to help place 70 graduates and work with 200 business.

The Green Paper said: “We will work with local areas to test other approaches to closing the skills gap, which could include . . . new schemes to support the retention and attraction of graduates, potentially spreading innovative programmes like (the city region’s) RISE initiative, which places graduates in local SMEs.”

Seventy thousand new jobs are required under the SCR’s Strategic Economic Plan – – and to help fill those jobs we need to provide training.

Apprenticeships are a very targeted way of providing the highest quality vocational and technical education and training, and it is good news that the Sheffield City Region trained over 20,000 apprentices in the 2014/15 academic year, more than the rest of England apart from London and the South East.

We can also applaud the success of Sheffield Hallam University graduate Holly Broadhurst who won the title Higher or Degree Apprentice of the Year in the National Apprenticeship of the Year Awards. Holly gained a mechanical engineering degree last summer following her higher apprenticeship at the JCB Academy and is now a full-time design engineer for JCB.

Current Hallam mechanical engineering student Melissa Loonam was highly commended in the awards. Melissa is a manufacturing engineer at Rolls-Royce and is completing her degree part time.

At the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s training arm, a state-of-the-art centre offers the very best in practical and academic training alongside some of the world’s most inspiring manufacturing names. Several hundred apprentices are being trained here in the practical and academic skills that engineering and manufacturing companies need to compete globally, from apprenticeship through to higher education. The AMRC Training Centre is regarded as the ‘Centre of Excellence’ for apprenticeship and professional development delivery in the Yorkshire & Humber region.

We know that one of the skills gaps in this region is the lack of higher level qualifications earned by many adults. Helping to tackle this, the SCR is providing £3.5million to fund infrastructure works for a new campus for Rotherham College, to open in Autumn 2018.

The ‘Rotherham Centre for Higher Level Skills’ will provide higher level learning in areas where the skills gap is worst: IT services and digital design; health care – both nursing and technical roles; business and enterprise including management, legal and accountancy services, sales and entrepreneurial skills; construction; and engineering, where retiring workers need to be replaced.

An important part of the college approach is that local employers have been consulted and will be closely involved in designing courses, which will include degrees, higher apprenticeships, and HNC/Ds. They will also create links to live vacancies, and tap into professional training and updating for their workforce.

And we have created the ‘Skills Bank’ to bring about a new culture in the skills system, using funds which allow employers to stipulate exactly the type of training they need for their staff, and with our help to obtain it, even when it is very specialised. The Skills Bank works with the employers to identify how new skills can help to grow their business, and our team of brokers can connect those businesses to high quality training providers.

In Doncaster the National College for High Speed Rail is moving swiftly toward opening in the Autumn: the College is a state-of-the-art training facility currently taking shape on new campuses in Birmingham and Doncaster.

It will offer a wide variety of courses, all developed with leading employers – so that students will learn the specific skills the rail industry needs. The courses will be taught through a mixture of classroom learning, using the very latest technology, and real work experience on real projects.

In Barnsley and Doncaster ‘Construction Skills Villages’ are being launched to give

students skills in the construction field, and to close the gap between education and the construction industry.

All in all, the SCR and employers together have made great headway in providing imaginative and practical solutions to the skills gaps in our sectors. We’re here to grow the economy and that’s what we’re doing by helping to upskill our population.



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