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Marches LEP praised for skills work

A major new report has praised the work done across the Marches to boost employment and skills – and sets out an ambitious blueprint for the future.

The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (MLEP) has already played a key leadership role in developing skills programmes which meet the need of the region’s businesses, the Marches Local Skills Report says.

And it says the LEP – the business-led organisation which drives economic growth across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin – will play a vital role in ensuring high-quality and targeted training and skills provision continues to remain in place as the region recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Local Skills Report – produced independently by expert business consultancy Hatch using funding secured from the Department for Education – analyses the work of the Marches LEP’s Skills Advisory Panel (SAP) and highlights key strategic priorities and a detailed action plan for future skills provision.

It says: “The SAP has performed a strong leadership role on skills in the Marches, engaged with local partners, and advised and supported providers to develop programmes which are evidence-based and that meet the needs of local employers.

“The Marches LEP has made significant progress in supporting employers and skills providers to understand the need for, and attract, investment.

“The success of the Marches in increasing its skills base to maintain good employment levels and boost productivity depends in part on the ability for the SAP and its partners to continue to work together to maintain a good balance between supply and demand, both now and into the future.”

Schemes supported by the LEP which are singled out for praise include the new Centre of Excellence in Health, Allied Health and Social Care at Telford being developed by the University of Wolverhampton, demand-led apprenticeship provision for Oswestry employer Aico and the training provision at the new Centre for Cyber Security in Hereford.

The report also highlights the launch of the Marches LEP’s Careers Hub, the development of a new automotive engineering training centre by Shrewsbury Colleges Group and LEP support to Shropshire Chamber to develop a virtual careers advice service.

Its action plan for the future calls for more demand-led provision of training, an increased focus on digital skills, more work to inspire young people about career opportunities and a focus on tackling the challenges of an ageing workforce – and lists nearly 30 separate schemes and tasks to help meet its ambitions.

James Staniforth, chair of the Marches SAP, welcomed the report which now goes to the Department for Education to help inform Government policy.

“This report has been produced in an extraordinary context. The pandemic has provided an impetus for the exponential development of digital learning. As a consequence, we now have opportunities for upskilling Marches residents to meet the needs of the economy in the 2020s which were inconceivable a year ago.

“We also have an opportunity to draw on one of the great strengths of the Marches LEP area, as an exceptional environment to live, grow a family and grow a business. In a world where we may have more choice over where we live and conduct our work, we need to ensure that talented people and innovative businesses are supported to locate in the Marches.

“The SAP can help create that environment through addressing skills needs of businesses and the personal needs of families for high quality educational opportunities.”

Pictured: James Staniforth

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