Centre of excellence '˜is key to giving region skilled workforce'

Apprenticeship growth can fuel a skilled workforce for the whole of the region, the Northern Powerhouse Minister said yesterday, as a centre of excellence was launched in Yorkshire's steel city.

Local growth minister Jake Berry

Jake Berry MP, officially opening a new national centre for degree apprenticeships at Sheffield Hallam University, said such investment can be key to realising the North’s “true potential”. And as dignitaries gathered for last night’s launch, he stressed that a focus for on-the-job learning can narrow a skills gap for those unable to follow more traditional routes, driving economic growth.

“Today’s launch demonstrates the importance of degree apprenticeships, and apprenticeships more widely, in equipping the North with the highly skilled workforce it deserves,” he said.

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“Degree apprenticeships are a great way for people to earn whilst learning at some of the UK’s top universities and to go on to secure a rewarding job.”

The North’s contribution to wider apprenticeship starts has been “remarkable”, he added, with almost 35 per cent being from within the Northern Powerhouse Region last year, despite it only making up a quarter of the UK’s workforce.

“Progress so far has been outstanding, but for us to realise the true potential of the North, we need to keep building on this and continue to drive apprenticeships uptake. We are working tirelessly to bring employers, providers and apprentices together to ensure apprenticeships work for everyone, and this centre will be crucial to doing just that.”

Sheffield Hallam, home to the country’s largest modern business school, works with around 2,000 employers every year. Its degree apprenticeships have been developed in key subjects such as construction, engineering and computing, areas seen as central to the future economy.

There are 385 apprentices enrolled on courses already, with an estimated 2,350 expected by 2020 under the new focus which has been part-funded by a £500,000 grant from the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Combined Authority, aimed at providing bespoke teaching space and IT equipment.

“The university has an ambition to become the world’s leading applied university with a focus on innovative and applied education,” said vice-chancellor Chris Husbands. “We are committed to the region and have placed regional economic growth and social mobility at the heart of our strategy.”

Dan Jarvis, mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said the centre would provide opportunities for around 11,000 learners over the course of the next decade.

“Enterprise and ambition will be nurtured with outstanding new facilities, expert knowledge and the collaborative university-business relationships our city region is renowned for,” he added.

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