May 2024

Education providers join forces to launch new one stop shop for employers

By Sean Madden

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University College Birmingham has joined forces with other colleges and training providers across the West Midlands to launch a new brand, website and advertising campaign which creates a one stop shop for employers and their workforces.

Known as Skills West Midlands and Warwickshire, the initiative is part of the Local Skills and Improvement Plan (LSIP) with funding through the Department for Education’s Local Skills and Improvement Fund (LSIF).

Ultimately, the new website serves as a directory for training initiatives in the region, helping businesses develop the skills they need to grow, innovate and thrive.

Rosa Wells, FE Principal and Dean for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) at University College Birmingham, said: "Further education plays a pivotal role in fostering skills development across the region.

"Skills WM+W embodies our commitment to enhanced collaboration and deeper engagement with employers. This initiative reflects our responsiveness to their feedback and signifies our proactive stance"

Alongside the launch of Skills WM+W, a report reveals detailed research and analysis into the opportunities and challenges around skills in four priority growth sectors: construction, engineering and manufacturing, digital and ICT and logistics and distribution.

Post-16 education and training providers are coming together at a crucial time to upskill and reskill the region’s workforce. They promise to put employers at the heart of the skills planning process, so businesses have the people and skills they need to innovate, grow and thrive.

Skills WM+W has the potential to transform the way colleges engage with employers, delivering a more agile and responsive service that better aligns with employer needs. With this new way of working training providers hope to play an even bigger part in the region’s growth story.

An advertising campaign launches this week, appearing on social media, digital outdoor posters and in online programmatic display. The campaign tells employers that “we’ve made your business our business.”

Suzie Branch-Haddow, lead project manager of Skills WM +W, said: “Skills West Midlands and Warwickshire is a regional growth strategy. Many colleges and training providers are working well with employers. They tell us they are largely satisfied with the technical skills taught in colleges. But we need to go deeper, harder and faster.

“We know the jobs are there; the growth potential is there. But there are serious challenges, not least in addressing acute labour shortages right now and real problems with soft and essential skills.

“This is a big opportunity. I hope employers will recognise that we see their business as our business.”

Further education already takes a central role in supporting skills development across the region. It comprises 70 providers and teaches around 120,000 students. However, the role of FE amongst a significant number of employers is either unknown or misunderstood.

The insight report from Whitecap Consulting provides comprehensive analysis on the four priority growth sectors with mapping of the entire curriculum in these areas and in-depth 1-1 discussions with decision-makers across a range of employers. It spells out where there are acute labour and skills shortages, which industries face the challenge of ageing workforces and highlights the issue of poorly equipped entry level recruits who struggle with ‘soft’ and essential skills.

Skills West Midlands and Warwickshire is set to deliver on the Local Skills Improvement Plan published in 2023 which laid out a clear roadmap. The plan revealed around 74% of regional employers had not worked with post-16 education and training providers in the last five years. Around 90% of employers in Whitecap’s latest research said they want to know more about what the sector can offer and showed a clear appetite to be more involved in shaping training provision.

This latest stage of the Plan’s delivery aims to answer the call in Whitecap’s research for a streamlined and effective single point of engagement, with a united brand and website.

To find out more and access training provision, visit

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