The West of England is a place where ideas flourish and businesses grow, where creative, digital and high-tech meet traditional industry. We know that in the future technology will be doing things we haven’t even dreamt of yet, and this will shape the careers available to future generations. Our Local Industrial Strategy sets out a plan to prepare our region for the future, and to ensure that our diverse workforce has the skills, talent and experience to meet the needs of the evolving economy/developing industries.
Workforce for the Future is an £8m programme – co-funded by the West of England Combined Authority and the European Social Fund (ESF) – that will work with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them develop their future workforce, meeting their current and future needs.
The programme will help SMEs in the West of England understand, navigate and benefit from the region’s developing skills system, connecting them to the future workforce through apprenticeships, internships and placements.
SMEs may also work with training providers to help shape their curriculum, or support schools to offer work experience (or other activities) which will give learners an idea of future jobs that will be available in the local economy and what skills they will need to fill them.
From the business perspective, Workforce for the Future’s lasting impact will be an improved skills system that businesses can understand and use. New tools, case studies and mentor businesses will also emerge that can help other organisations on the programme.
By involving SMEs, Workforce for the Future can also help individual learners to make progress, giving them useful work-based experiences. Individual projects on the programme might work with specific groups of people, for example those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds or those from particular neighbourhoods, whilst maintaining the focus of their support on the SME.
Workforce for the Future operates under Investment Priority 2.2 of the national European Social Fund Operating Programme. All projects on the programme will need to deliver a single European Social Fund output leading to a single result, as defined here.
WECA will select projects for support following an open call process – which will welcome a wide range of expressions of interest. Our expectation is that projects will be delivered by numerous organisations which together have good reach into business and an understanding of the current skills system, apprenticeships, internships and placements. There is scope to support a range of projects at different scales, with some smaller projects perhaps taking particularly innovative approaches to improving the system.