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Technical Skills at the heart of devolution deal

Written on 10th January 2023

The Greater Manchester Colleges Group is supporting Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester ahead of a “game changer” devolution deal to shape technical education, including new T-Level courses, in order to plug skills gaps in the regional economy.

The Mayor, who is also supported by Clive Memmott, chief executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, GMCA lead for Education, Skills, Work, Apprenticeships and Digital wants to involve local businesses in shaping technical education courses to support both students and employers.

Andy Burnham said employers would be at the heart of a new integrated skills and work system alongside the Department of Education and a new Greater Manchester technical skills board. He also called for the city-region to be given further powers to become the first city region to develop an integrated skills system, giving young people a clear line of sight to available opportunities.

He 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.”

Burnham claimed that by closely working with businesses locally Greater Manchester could show a way to make T-levels work.

Lisa O’Loughlin, Principal at Greater Manchester College, said the proposals had the potential for businesses to work with colleges on a local curriculum: “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.”

Councillor Eamonn O’Brien said a lack of technical skills within Greater Manchester’s workforce is holding business back. “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.”

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.”