From education to employment

Mayor of Greater Manchester announces plans to create the UK’s first integrated technical education system

andy burnham

MAYOR Andy Burnham, alongside business and education leaders, have written to Government to restate their ambitious plans to transform Greater Manchester into the UK’s leading technical education city-region through the creation of an integrated skills system.

The letter, addressed to the Education Secretary and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, describes the proposals as a ‘game-changer’ for Government by ensuring employers are at the heart of creating an integrated skills & work system – which could be achieved in partnership with the Department of Education and the co-creation of a Greater Manchester technical skills board.

Clive Memmott, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Lisa O’Loughlin, Chair of the Greater Manchester Colleges Group, and Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, GMCA lead for Education, Skills, Work, Apprenticeships and Digital, have also signed the letter calling for the city-region to be given further powers.

The proposals outlined in the letter include ambitions for Greater Manchester to become the first place in the country to develop an integrated skills system, giving young people a clear line of sight to available opportunities. The already existing GMACS website would become the hub for all young learners on the technical route, with the aim of giving all young people in Greater Manchester the choice of three clear routes of post-16 education: A-levels, T-levels or apprenticeships.

There are also plans to work with employers in making sure that Greater Manchester’s skills system better meets their needs, as well as the ability to create targeted employment support for unemployed people, or those at risk of falling out of work.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:

“As we continue to negotiate with Government on the next round of devolution, we are offering government the opportunity to work with us to create the country’s first integrated technical education system in Greater Manchester.

“To achieve our ambitions, we need to integrate the skills system, giving young people a clear sight of the available opportunities by matching employers and learners. The system would boost Government’s delivery of T-levels, through more joined up working with colleges and businesses.

“A reformed and simplified technical education system, more closely aligned to employers’ needs, would enable the city-region to connect people to high quality jobs and opportunities. We have already begun the groundwork in Greater Manchester, working closely with partners such as the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Manchester Colleges Group, to create a system that builds stronger links between employers and further education and training. By giving the city-region further powers, we will be able to unlock its full potential and become the UK’s leading city for learners, of all ages and backgrounds, to build technical skills.”

Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, GMCA lead for Education, Skills, Work, Apprenticeships and Digital said:

“Since Greater Manchester took on responsibility for the Adult Education Budget we have had more control over training opportunities and skills provision for people across the city-region. We’re already using those devolved powers and resources to make more education and training opportunities available, to more Greater Manchester residents and businesses, but with the right tools we could go further, faster. There is only so much we can do without having further devolved powers.

“Employers continue to highlight a lack of technical skills within Greater Manchester’s workforce required to build their businesses. With an integrated work and skills system, we can create a system that is resilient and flexible, adapting to meet employers’ needs in the rapidly changing 21st century world of work.

“We want to make sure that businesses want to invest and create good jobs in Greater Manchester, and that our residents have the best chance to access those new opportunities across the city-region. Our devolution proposals would play a big part in creating opportunity, addressing skills shortages and building Greater Manchester’s economy.”

The plans outlined in the letter include:

  • Positioning Greater Manchester as a Technical Education City-Region – Ensuring Greater Manchester can provide advanced and higher technical skills to meet the city-region’s economic needs. This includes an ambitious T-Level offer and Apprenticeships that provide pathways into higher technical qualifications.
  • Ensuring employers are at the heart of creating and investing in a talented, resilient city-region – Employers will have access to – and can actively contribute to – a system that is flexible, resilient and adaptable, and which meets their needs in the rapidly changing 21st century world of work.
  • Ensuring Greater Manchester advances equality and allows residents to reach their potential – This includes targeted support for those furthest away from the labour market, at risk of falling out of work, or who are economically inactive.

Clive Memmott, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said:

“This is a very important initiative because technical education has been the poor relation to academic education in this country for far too long. Both are of equal importance, but technical education has not been treated as an equal and as a result of this it has not been seen by as an attractive and viable choice by many young people, their parents and their teachers.

“The request we are making to government sets about correcting this imbalance and better providing the businesses in Greater Manchester with the skills they need. We want to work with Government to show that we can lead the way in technical education transformation in our city region and how a more devolved approach to this will enable us to create the system best suited to what we need.” 

Lisa O’Loughlin, Principal at Greater Manchester College, said:

“If Greater Manchester is to realise its full potential and develop a highly skilled workforce that drives economic growth it is vital that it is able to develop a best-in-class technical education system which connects people from across the region with the economic opportunities that are available to them. Key to this is enabling and encouraging employers to work in partnership with education providers across the region to ensure that curriculums are equipping learners with the skills that they will need in their workforce.

“We know already that when employers, education partners and the combined authority are empowered to collaborate that this aligns skills and training with employer need in an integrated and powerful way. Further enhancing this integration and collaboration will ensure that Greater Manchester’s skills and training provision aligns with the needs of employers and the regional economy to drive growth and ensure that the people of Greater Manchester have the opportunity to develop the skills that will enable them to access the career opportunities that exist here.”

Greater Manchester’s trailblazer proposals build on the success of the devolution of the Adult Education Budget (AEB) which saw the city-region take on responsibility for adult skills back in August 2019, and GM Working Well (Work & Health Programme), part of a suite of employment support programmes that help people with health conditions to move towards/into sustained work. Since having control of functions and budgets, the city-region has been able to craft policies in response to local needs. This has made it easier for residents to access training and support they need to get ahead in life and in work.

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