£4.5m will be invested in improving skills to benefit residents and businesses by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA).
At its meeting on Friday September 28, WECA agreed to establish a skills innovation fund. This will support a further bid for £4m from the European Social Fund to create an overall £8.5m pot, for activities to link small and medium-sized businesses with the right talent, creating new employment opportunities for residents.
Proposals for three new Talent Institutes also took a step forward after WECA agreed to fund a £100,000 feasibility study to explore their potential. The aim is to create nationally-recognised centres of excellence to drive business innovation and employment support. Talent Institutes would seek to build on activities already happening in the region and involve organisations delivering in this area.
Tim Bowles, Mayor of the West of England, said: “This is great news – we have many high-quality jobs and we need to give locally-grown talent every opportunity to secure employment, by making sure they have the right skills for our businesses.
“I’m looking forward to seeing plans for the talent institutes develop. These would replicate best practice from around the world, where multiple businesses come together to interact, collaborate and learn. They would help make businesses more effective – generating new products that are marketplace-ready and employing, directly and indirectly, a diverse and productive workforce. The Talent Institutes could also connect with and inspire those furthest from employment.”
Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, said: “These are exciting projects that look set to present a whole host of opportunities for our businesses and residents. South Gloucestershire businesses are massive contributors to the regional economy and it is critical that we are working closely with them to deliver their future talent demands. Proposals such as this will maintain the region as a powerful player in the Government’s Industrial Strategy.”
Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “Both the Talent Institutes and Skills Fund offer opportunities for us to work with residents across our communities to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance to improve their career prospects.”
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “This new investment offers many opportunities, but we must make sure we draw on the wealth of experience that already exists within our local area, and reach out into communities that haven’t yet benefited from our region’s economic success.”
The vice chancellors of Bristol University and Bath Spa University have both written letters expressing their support for the Talent Institutes initiative.
The Combined Authority is chaired by the Regional Mayor, Tim Bowles, and is made up of the leaders and Mayor from its three member councils – Bath & North East Somerset (Leader, Cllr Tim Warren), Bristol City Council (Mayor Marvin Rees) and South Gloucestershire Council (Leader, Cllr Toby Savage). The Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Professor Steve West, also attends committee meetings.