Thursday, October 8, 2015

News: Colleges collaborate to boost local economy

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Colleges across the Sheffield City Region are working together to provide education and skills training and boost the economic growth of the area.

Government commissioners have identified that "there is significant scope for greater efficiency in the sector, in a way that frees up resources to deliver high quality education and training which supports economic growth."

A series of Area Based Reviews (ABRs) of provision are to be carried out with the Sheffield city region one of the first three areas. Each review will start by assessing the economic and educational needs of the area, and the implications for post-16 education and training provision, including school sixth forms, sixth form colleges, further education colleges and independent providers.

Business leaders from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) are working with nine local colleges to review the future economic and educational needs. Principals from the colleges met last month to sign a Memorandum of Understanding outlining how the partnership will work.

A steering group has been set up to oversee the review and it will be co-chaired by private sector LEP Board members Julie Kenny and Nigel Brewster. The group will be made up of Chairs of Governors from the ten Sheffield City Region colleges, supported by their chief executives and/or principals. Government commissioners and representatives from Education Funding Agency (EFA) and Skills Funding Agency (SFA) will also make up the group.

Julie Kenny (CBE), ABR Steering Group co-chair, said: "Our review is being designed to grow the local economy and ensure that young college leavers in Sheffield City Region are getting the skills that our local businesses need, now and in the future. Improving opportunities for local young people to get the qualifications to succeed is at the heart of this work."

Martin Harrison, principal and chief executive at Dearne Valley College, and chair of the Sheffield City Region Further Education Providers group, said: "The LEP Growth Plan sets out the region's intention to transform the local economy over the next decade and at the heart of this plan is the creation of 70,000 new private sector jobs and 6,000 new businesses.

"The key areas for growth include advanced manufacturing, construction, financial and business services and sport, leisure and tourism. The region's colleges have committed to working together to play a leading role in the development of the skills needed to underpin growth in these sectors. Each college has its own unique resources and competences that can be used to meet the group's objectives and signing the Memorandum of Understanding is a real positive step in working in collaboration. Dearne Valley College is proud to be a part of this collaboration and welcomes the continued opportunity to add value to the local communities with our partner colleges."

The initial recommendations are set to focus on general FE and sixth form colleges and a skills strategy is set to be published with the aim to help ensure that post-16 providers are delivering the skills that local employers require.

As part of devolution negotiations with the Government, the SCR asked for joint influence over the use of funding for 16-18 year olds, co-commissioning programmes with Government agencies deployed through an outcome based agreement, ensuring the young people leave school with the skills they need to make an impact in the city region economy. The 19+ adult skills budget is set to be devolved from 2018/19.

Nigel Brewster, ABR Steering Group co-chair, added: "This review will give local leaders and colleges a firmer business case as we negotiate greater control over funding and powers from Westminster. I'm looking forward to working closely with these nine high quality colleges to make sure our skills provision and business needs are the closest match possible."

Sheffield City Region LEP websiteImages: Dearne Valley College

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