By now most of you will have spotted and read the LEP Growth Deals that were announced on 7 July . These are really important announcements and when considered alongside the 2014-20 ESF programme represent a significant shift of resources and decision making to local level . They include the transfer of £330m of FE capital to LEPs for 15/16 and 16/17 ( £660m in total) and list the projects that are being supported together with the amount of local match that will be required .
Additionally they also announce that LEPs will have greater influence over the allocations of SFA budgets and greater control over any new funds . To me the direction of travel is obvious and is one that is shared by the main opposition party(Labour) as they launched the conclusions of the Adonis review last week which again proposed significant devolution of future skills budgets to local level .
You will want to look at your own local LEP growth deals as they also include specific local agreements that LEPs have asked for eg Greater Manchester have secured £12m for 2 years from SFA budgets to support access to employment .
Turning now to NWPN activities following a really positive Board meeting in June . We discussed Apprenticeship Reform and the consultation response/lobbying activity that everyone has been progressing . We agreed that we need to continue to push and argue ensuring that the voice of our employers is heard. Additionally though we also need to continue to make the case for public investment in skills, recognising that with further spending cuts to come the skills budget is an easy target for government. We will continue to make the case up to the next election and beyond. We also agreed to strengthen our relationship with national and other regional/sub regional provider representative bodies. At regional level we are also looking to organise an apprenticeship trailblazer event for September, and a meeting between our Board and the chairs of each of the LEP skills and employment partnerships.
Have a good summer and I will produce my next update in early September
REGULAR UPDATE FROM PAUL HOLME, CHAIR OF NORTH WEST PROVIDERS NETWORK
Apologies for not producing my monthly update for a few months but all of our attention has been focused on responding to the apprenticeship funding consultation. I want to start with this very issue – looking at where we are now and our next steps.
In terms of our response to the funding consultation we did a superb job in encouraging over 450 employers across the North West to respond. This also helped inform a NWPN Provider response to the consultation which stressed that this response was a summary of what NW employers are saying. The key message is that the majority of employers won’t employ apprenticeships in the future if the changes go ahead and the vast majority want apprenticeship funding to continue to go through employers if that is what the employer wants. Very powerful messages and an excellent response- well done to all involved. Each of our sub regions are now talking to ‘influencers’ eg Chambers, MPs, LEPs to ensure that they understand the proposals and the negative impact that they will have on apprenticeships if implemented
It is important to remember though that the consultation was only about the routing of apprenticeship funding and implementation on other aspects have continued through trailblazers and at the time of writing ministers are about to publish the rates for trailblazers, the level of employer contribution and the additional payments for 16-18 year olds, small employers (defined as under 50 employees) and achievement. It is important that we all read and understand .
Turning now to other matters. LEPs have now produced their latest plans for the 2014-20 European programmes but it is likely to be the turn of the year before they go out to tender . Over the next 6 months it is important to keep in touch to understand what is likely to be tendered for and what bidding/delivery partnerships need to put in place, remembering that the procurement area for most contracts will be LEP boundaries . The tenders will either come from SFA, DWP, Big Lottery or direct contracting from the LEP itself . Don’t forget that there are still significant resources available in the current programme with many of you holding contracts or being sub contractors.
LEPs will also receive confirmation in July of what support they will receive from government for their local growth plans (contained within their Strategic Economic Plans). These are really important both in terms of budgets that LEPs will receive (including FE capital) but also signalling what further powers and authority government intends to give to LEPs. At this stage I think that City Regions will be in the strongest position