London has one of the world’s most vibrant and dynamic economies – but many Londoners are not able to share in the prosperity it brings.
Inequality in the capital includes above-average unemployment rates, high numbers of Londoners stuck in low pay (with little chance to progress to better-paid, more secure work), continued and persistent gender, race and disability pay gaps, and the highest proportion of people in poverty of any UK region. Then, of course, there is the huge, widespread economic uncertainty caused by Brexit.
Add to this low levels of qualifications – particularly in literacy, English language, numeracy and digital skills, a distinct lack of effective careers information, advice and guidance,gla and the soaring cost of childcare in London, and it soon becomes clear why we need to invest now to build the workforce of the future.
Last week the Mayor launched the second round of his Skills for Londoners Capital Fund. This is set to benefit thousands of Londoners, particularly those furthest from the workplace, including young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) and offenders of all ages.
A total of £82 million has been made available to invest in the “bricks and mortar” of training provision – new and upgraded buildings, facilities, technology and equipment, which will be used by providers working with thousands of learners across the capital. Bidders can apply for anything from £200,000 to £10 million, up until 1 October.
Of this money, £7.2 million has been earmarked for the Mayor’s Construction Academy – a network of high quality construction skills providers across London working closely with construction employers, which the Mayor launched in June.
More than £25 million was invested through the first Skills for Londoners Capital Fund round earlier this year, which included investments in digital skills, design and facilities specifically tailored for disabled Londoners and those with special educational needs.
The Fund is part of a total pot of £114 million, made available by the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP). LEAP is the Local Enterprise Partnership for London, which is chaired by the Mayor and plays a crucial role ensuring the money devolved from central government for economic growth – including the wider £324 million in Growth Deals funding – is well spent.
In June, Sadiq published his Skills for Londoners Strategy – the first post-16 skills and adult education strategy produced by a London Mayor. It outlines the host of skills challenges London faces and lays out the Mayor’s vision for tackling them and creating a “city for all Londoners”.
The latest funding round will focus on supporting projects meeting three important priorities set out in the strategy: empowering all Londoners to access the education and skills to participate in society and progress in education and work; meeting the needs of London’s economy and employers, now and in the future; and delivering a strategic city wide technical skills and adult education offer.
Of course, as with the rest of the country’s economy, the threat of Brexit looms large. Sadiq is committed to meeting the skills gap that will be created in London and across the country when the UK leaves the European Union. The investment in training Londoners in key areas through the Skills for Londoners Capital Fund is a crucial step in addressing this.
The Mayor and I believe everyone in London should have the skills to succeed in a thriving economy, forming the backbone of a fair and inclusive society.
This tranche of funding will help ensure the capital’s skills and education sector has the top quality facilities needed to train thousands more Londoners and help them into work and that London’s businesses can access the talent they need.
Jules Pipe is Deputy Mayor for planning, regeneration and skills and a former Mayor of Hackney.
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