Sadiq launches skills fund

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has launched Skills for Londoners – a new skills agenda for the capital – which aims to ensure that all Londoners have the opportunity to train in the skills that the capital’s economy needs.

The Skills for Londoners Capital Fund will invest £114m in equipment and facilities at London’s further education colleges and other education and training providers.

Sadiq has also established a Skills for Londoners Taskforce comprising business leaders and employers, skills and education experts and London government representatives. The taskforce will develop a city-wide strategic approach so that Londoners and businesses can access the skills they need for future success.

The Mayor is also proposing to establish a Construction Skills Academy later in the year, in partnership with the housebuilding industry. This will aim to close the gap between the demand for new housing in the capital and the need for more skilled construction workers.

London has a strong, dynamic, global economy, but the region’s employment rate has lagged behind the national average for three decades.  More than 280,000 Londoners are unemployed, with particularly high rates of youth unemployment. London also has a growing problem of in-work poverty, associated with low-skilled, low-paid work. Ensuring an effective and responsive skills system is critical to tackling these issues.

Sadiq believes that an effective skills system is also critical to meeting the needs of London’s businesses. Employers repeatedly report skills shortage vacancies and skills gaps in their workforce, impacting on growth and productivity. Given the uncertainty surrounding the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union, ensuring a more responsive skills system – as well as continued access to global talent – is more important than ever, according to the Mayor, in meeting employers’ needs.

The Skills for Londoners Taskforce, working closely with the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), will focus primarily on further education and training but also looking at progression pathways from school and into higher education (HE).

It will also aim to ensure that communities across London have access to training, and that from a young age both girls and boys are encouraged to explore the skills they need to make progress in the future economy. It will have a strong emphasis on gender equality, targeting opportunities for girls to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills in particular.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I want all Londoners to have the same opportunities I had growing up. Skills for Londoners is the first step towards making that happen.

“While London is a great place to learn, there is no doubt that not enough Londoners are getting the skills they need to live up to their potential. This also impacts businesses, hampering their growth and forcing them to look further afield for talent.

“Now that we are leaving the European Union, it is more important than ever that we make sure more Londoners gain access to the skills they and our economy truly need.

“The further education and skills sector has a vital role to play in making sure all Londoners can truly be part of London’s prosperity.

“Through Skills for Londoners, we will address these problems head-on, giving Londoners the chance to train in the skills that will boost our economy and creating a pipeline of local talent and expertise for our businesses to tap into.”

The Skills For Londoners Capital Fund comprises £56m secured by LEAP, in the latest Growth Deal from Government, together with £58m of previously secured LEAP funding to invest in the estate and equipment of London’s skills providers over the next four years.

In addition, the fund will look to invest in schemes that create strong partnerships with employers to support the development of provision and the creation of jobs.

London Economic Action Partnership Board member, Dr Celia Caulcott said: “We are delighted to be working alongside the Mayor to invest in learning spaces and equipment to boost skills in the capital. Ensuring more world-class learning environments that reflect the realities of the world of work will help Londoners of all ages and backgrounds to develop the skills they need to access employment and maximise their potential.”

Chaired by the Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, Jules Pipe, it will look at a range of issues including all-age careers information, advice and guidance, technical and vocational education, adult learning and links with higher education.  In addition, it will look at how London’s businesses can get the maximum benefit from the new Apprenticeship levy paid by businesses to government.

Taskforce member, Ian Ashman, who is also President of the Association of Colleges said: “I believe that the Skills for Londoners Taskforce will have a really positive impact on the capital, helping Londoners to develop the skills to improve their lives and helping our employers get the skilled people they need to succeed.  I am therefore delighted to have been invited by the Mayor to join the Taskforce, and look forward to bringing the perspective of 25 years of experience in London’s colleges to its work.”

Taskforce member, Seetha Kumar, who is also CEO of Creative Skillset, said: “London’s creative industries are buoyant.  But sector growth means we need more skilled people as well as people with different skills – for example, due to technological change.  I’m looking forward to working with the Mayor and Taskforce members to improve skills development opportunities – for Londoners preparing to join the workforce and those already in employment – and build a more inclusive, agile workforce to support economic growth.”

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, said: “This is the kind of initiative on skills that London business has been wanting to see for some time, and the need is now even more acute with current uncertainty over immigration. With the clock counting down to Brexit, it’s vital to move quickly to ensure Londoners have every opportunity to get skilled up and ready to fill the quarter million vacancies in London each year. Business will work closely with the Mayor to address our skills shortages and get the UK into the best possible shape ahead of 2019.”

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