Tens of thousands of residents across the West Midlands are benefiting from valuable qualifications and skills, thanks to the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) partnership with local colleges.

For two years, the WMCA has had devolved control of the region’s £130m adult education budget – funding further education providers and working with them to equip local people with the skills needed by employers.

Latest figures show the number of people with NVQ Level 3+ qualifications in the WMCA area increased by 120,000 to 1,444,000 in 2020, while the number of people with no qualifications reduced by 66,700 to 223,800 in the same period – a decrease of 23 per cent.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street visited Dudley College of Technology yesterday to celebrate the region’s success and meet adults on higher level skills courses including engineering, construction retrofitting, and health and social care.

The Mayor said: “Sadly, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has left many people out of work or uncertain about their future.

“We know there are jobs in sectors including construction, digital, and health and social care – but local people need the right skills to land these jobs. Devolved adult education funding means we’re able to equip residents with the skills needed to do exactly that.

“We’re also enabling employers to upskill their workforce for new ways of working, such as retrofitting houses to make them more environmentally friendly and help the region to achieve its zero-carbon target by 2041.

“I would like to thank Dudley College of Technology and all the other further education providers in our region for their dedicated work to help give local people a brighter future.”

The Mayor also met several local employers who are currently supporting apprentices to achieve Level 3 qualifications. The WMCA has received a further £9.2m from the National Skills Fund to support more people to take up Level 3 qualifications – this is a welcome cash boost and colleges are stepping up to increase their offer.

Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and the WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills, said: “The region’s young population, its excellent connectivity and strengths in key sectors such as construction and digital all provide the right ingredients for growth. We’re proud to be working in partnership with our local colleges to help residents get qualifications, retrain and find new jobs as a result.”

Neil Thomas, chief executive and principal of Dudley College of Technology, said: “The ability the devolved authority now has to fund training that is most needed in the regional economy allows us to deliver even more programmes at Level 3.

“This in turn means that more West Midlands residents will have the higher level skills most in demand by employers and will be able to move to further courses at universities, in further education or at the new Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology.

“The flexibility the WMCA is using will allow us to fill the skills gaps in sectors such as health and engineering, where employment is forecast to grow steeply in the next decade.”

To find out how the WMCA is helping local people gain access to training opportunities, visit https://beta.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/productivity-and-skills