Improving skills and knowledge "crucial" to local recovery
Mandy Thorn MBE DL is Chair of the Marches LEP, a leading figure in the social care sector, and current president of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce. Below, Mandy sets out how investment in skills is playing a key part in helping the region’s fightback from the Covid pandemic.
A multi-million pound investment in building skills across the Marches is playing a key part in helping the region’s fightback from the Covid pandemic, says the leader of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.
Marches LEP chair Mandy Thorn MBE said the organisation’s work over the last ten years to develop the skills base across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, would pay huge dividends in the region’s recovery from lockdown.
She said the LEP – which this year celebrates ten years since it was first launched – had a proud track record of investing more than £5million in improving skills across the region.
“The LEP has worked with schools, colleges and universities to ensure that the region has all the skills needed to lead the way in the modern world,” she said.
“The work we have done throughout a decade of delivery to improve skills and knowledge across our workforce will be crucial to us as we move out of the pandemic period, helping to ensure businesses can adopt new technology, new working practices and seize the new opportunities which will emerge.
“The unique way the LEP brings together partners across business, the academic sector and local authorities means that training and skills provision can be strategically developed to match the needs of business and ensure the region can flourish.
“Through our Growth Deal Skills Capital Investment we have been able to target investment exactly where it is needed to help develop state-of-the-art facilities in which a new generation can be equipped with the skills needed to thrive for years to come.”
Examples of the LEP’s investment include:
- £197,400 to help Herefordshire and Ludlow College fit out the new land based and vehicle engineering workshop at its Holme Lacy Campus.
- £464,763 to develop a centre for excellence for engineering and manufacturing in Herefordshire led by Herefordshire & Ludlow College and Herefordshire Group Training Association.
- £483,000 for Shrewsbury Colleges Group to purchase equipment for the Manufacturing Skills Hub to enable a range of learning activity. The equipment has included mechatronics distribution and sorting stations, robotic workstations, lathes, mills, welders, vehicle lifts, computers and workstations.
- £424,000 for North Shropshire Colleges Group to support investment in infrastructure, hardware and software to improve IT and digital learning resources for the benefit of students and apprentices across the college.
- £1.979million for the Marches Centre for Manufacturing Technology for the manufacturing training facility in Bridgnorth.
- £520,000 to Telford College as part of the ‘Investing in our Future Workforce’ project to develop a virtual and augmented reality (VAR) training suite enabling students to engage with the latest VR platforms and learning.
- LEP funding has also assisted 15,771 new learners and helped create 2,110 apprenticeships since 2015.
Alongside these schemes the Marches LEP has won independent praise for the way it has ensured skills and training provision meets the needs of the region.
The Local Skills report – produced independently by expert business consultancy Hatch – says the LEP has played a key leadership role in developing skills programmes which meet the need of the region’s businesses and will help it flourish in the post-pandemic world.
Schemes supported by the LEP which were singled out for praise include the new Marches Centre of Excellence in Health and Social Care at Telford, 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 highlighted 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.