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My plans for West of England skills for a thriving economy and cohesive society

April 30, 2017

The government will devolve the adult skills budget to the regional mayors in May 2018. In between then and now I will meet with employers, further education colleges and other skills providers to discuss the skills needs of our regional economy. In particular, I will seek to ensure that skills training and apprentice provision is matched to the strategic economic sectors set out in the economic plan in section 2 of my manifesto.

I will be a champion for local apprentices and will appoint an apprentice champion for each sector. The champions will showcase the opportunities available in each sector and will work with schools so that young people in their early teens appreciate the skilled path and rewarding career that is available to them through basic and advanced apprenticeships.

In line with my desire to make sure that our regional prosperity touches every community I will endeavour to take the skills and employment opportunities to every part of the region. This will involve intensive work with employers and skills providers in geographically discrete parts of the region where low skilled and low paid work is the norm. There is a social justice aspect to this work, ensuring that there are no gender or racial barriers to rewarding work.

The adult skills budget is not solely about employability. New skills offer opportunities for social interaction and social cohesion. I am particularly keen to make sure that women from newly arrived communities acquire strong skills in conversational English. This will not only enable them to access education and work. It will also help us build a more cohesive society.

I will encourage social enterprises to offer training and apprenticeships in some areas. For instance when I was Communities and Local Government Ministers I supported social enterprises with the budget for refurbishing empty homes. Some of the best social enterprises train the long term unemployed and those whose lives have followed a dysfunctional path. A virtuous circle of new homes and lives back on track can be created.

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