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Students air views on Mayor’s landmark skills plan

Representatives from across South Yorkshire education, local authority and business pose for a photo at the launch of the Mayor's new skills plans.

Barnsley College students and staff alongside members of the region's education, business and local government sectors at the SYMCA launch event.

Our staff and students were invited to a special roundtable where they had the opportunity to air their views on Mayor of South Yorkshire Oliver Coppard’s landmark plan for skills and growth in the region.

To mark the launch of the new South Yorkshire Skills Strategy and accompanying Plan for Good Growth, the College had the pleasure of hosting the Mayor and his team, alongside representatives from Sheffield College, the University of Sheffield, AMRC, Barnsley Council, Sheffield City Council, HLM Architects and the Department for Work and Pensions.

The two documents provide a roadmap to develop South Yorkshire’s economic strength. The Skills Strategy aims to reduce economic inactivity and increase long-term employment or education; increase those with Level 2 or higher qualifications; increase the amount of higher-level jobs and raise the region’s median earnings. The Plan for Good Growth sets out how the region will attract investment and income and grow more secure, high-paid jobs.

Level 3 Light and Electric Vehicles Maintenance Installation and Repair T Level student, Wen Guo, kicked off the conversation, asking the Mayor: “How do we promote this in the community? We’re talking about it in this room, but everyone else is living their lives and they have no idea what’s going on here.”

Mr Coppard replied: “I think that point is absolutely right – how do we get people across South Yorkshire, not just in this room, to understand what this means for them, how they can play a part, benefit and access the opportunities we are going to create?”

Three Barnsley College students and one staff member sit at a table at the launch of a new regional skills plan.

Students Joseph McHale, Wen Guo and Michelle Williams alongside Helen Foster, Director of Adults and Higher Skills.

Joseph McHale, a current  A Level Politics, Law and History student at Barnsley Sixth Form College, compared the challenge of the two plans to making the region ‘less like a bucket with a hole in the bottom and more like a fountain’.

“It’s great that we’re taking the first step for that long-term plan,” added Joseph. “I think a big thing for kids in Barnsley is that everything to us seems short-term.

“Barnsley has gone from being a really big industrial-based economy to more service-based, which a lot of people don’t see as long-term jobs. We are on the brink of the second industrial revolution with green technology and all these new technologies that are coming in. People in Barnsley, and I know especially people at college, don’t want to go into these service-based jobs.

“They’re studying what they want so they can have a good foundation to bounce off and have a career that they want to go into – which will be affected by this plan. If it is promoted in colleges, I think you will see more people in South Yorkshire staying in South Yorkshire and coming back after university or apprenticeships.”

Michelle Williams, currently studying Level 2 Cyber Security and Introduction to AI and is enrolled onto a Level 3 Programming Software Development course, added: “Employers sometimes seem to create their own barriers to people who are inactive. I’m an ‘economically inactive’ person because I’ve got children and can only work certain times.

“We need to engage with employers more to give people like myself the opportunity to actually work and earn. How many people who are inactive but want a job are in my situation, where employers won’t give you a job because you can’t work 24-7?”

Mayor of South Yorkshire Oliver Coppard speaks with Barnsley College students in a classroom.

South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard also visited students in the Sci-Tech building during the launch.

Barnsley Council Chief Executive Officer, Sarah Norman, said: “In Barnsley about 50,000 people are economically inactive – 10,000 of those really want to work. But a key barrier for them is not knowing how to navigate the system.

“There’s a proliferation of different schemes that are supposed to help people back into work, but people don’t really know how to access what’s available. We need to do some really focused work, I think, on young people who are in danger of being NEETs and really being the lost generation.

“We’ve already got some really good practical ideas here in Barnsley and we’ll certainly need to use the funding, convening and campaigning in order to turn those into a reality.”

South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard said: “My job is good growth; building not just a bigger economy, but a better economy. Taken together, those two strategies set out some of the core, fundamental steps we are now taking to rebuild the pride, purpose and prosperity of South Yorkshire.”

Last updated: 15th March 2024

Originally posted on: 15th March 2024

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