A refocusing of how adult education funding is spent in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to give lower paid, lower skilled people the qualifications they need to secure better jobs will launch this summer.
The £11.5 million budget for Adult Education was devolved to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority earlier this year. Since then the authority has reviewed how best that money can be spent to meet the skills needs of the area.
Adult education has traditionally had a strong, demand-led focus on community and 'leisure and pleasure' courses, such as in arts and crafts and other hobby activities. While such courses will remain a part of the mix of adult education, the Combined Authority is working with further education colleges, training providers and the business community to target specific skills gaps in the local economy and jobs market.
Spend is to be more focused on priority areas, including Peterborough and Fenland, targeting those who have the lowest level of qualifications, or no qualifications at all, and so typically fund themselves in lower paid, less secure jobs. For example, in Peterborough, ONS figures state that 13.6% of the population have no qualifications at all. Equally, many businesses in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are struggling to fill certain vacancies due to lack of available skills.
Under the new programme, there will be more people in Fenland offered the opportunity to access courses. People from the district previously made up just 11% of those accessing adult education across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and this is set to increase to 20%.
Courses will be tailored to the skills needs of the local economy, using input from local businesses. For example, in Peterborough it is anticipates courses will deliver skills in transport, logistics, warehousing as well as in a range of health and social care fields. In Fenland, there will be training in ICT and digital skills, business administration, as well as health and social care, transport and warehousing. Qualifications in English and maths as well as general courses around employability skills will also be offered.
This is part of a new joined-up approach to how adult education fits within the Combined Authority's broader skills agenda to improve productivity, foster employment opportunities and reduce inequality in the economy.
Adult education will also therefore be a part of encouraging inclusive growth, helping more people take advantage of job opportunity that come from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough's growing economy and its dynamic businesses.
To help with the shifting of focus, more than double the amount of money will be spent on independent training providers which specialise in vocational courses. The overall budget for this is to increase from just £1 million to a little over £2 million. Of this, £650,000 will be spent in Peterborough and £494,000 will be spent in Fenland for the academic year 19/20 to deliver skills courses.
Additionally, the Combined Authority is working with providers generally, including further education colleges, in bringing forward the changes. The ambition is to create an adult education service that is the best in the county. There will be focus on encouraging innovation and continuous improvement in delivery.
Mayor James Palmer said: "The devolution of the adult education budget has brought about the opportunity to ask how best that money should be spent.
"Courses in leisure activities like bridge, or brushing up on a foreign language before a holiday, of course bring social benefits to people, and will remain part of what adult education has to offer.
"But I think it is right that more of that budget is use to help particularly low2er skilled people gain the leg-up they need to thrive in the local economy. We know that the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy is one of the UK's most thriving and dynamic, but we want that prosperity to be felt by more people. Inclusive growth is a key priority of the Combined Authority and adult education has a role to play.
"This is also taxpayers' money so the outcomes our spending delivers for people are also important. This fits in with the Combined Authority's wider skills agenda which is all about tackling gaps in education and qualifications, fostering the skills our local businesses need, and helping to ensure our economy continues to thrive.
"We have been working with providers on this new approach and we want to foster a commitment of excellence in adult education delivery, to truly make it a benchmark for a new way of skills delivery for post-19 learners.
"The exciting thing is that if we demonstrate success, there is the potential for more government funding allowing even more people to benefit from learning and skills training."
The new adult education programme will launch at the start of August.