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Leeds City College and Keighley College have received funding to boost adult numeracy levels in West Yorkshire

Funding to boost adult numeracy skills in West Yorkshire

Two of our colleges have secured nearly £480,000 to boost adult numeracy skills in the region.

Leeds City College and Keighley College will receive just under £434,000 and £45,500 respectively via the Department for Education-led Multiply programme.

They will use the money to fund a multi-pronged push to raise standards among adults who don’t have a Level 2 qualification – roughly equivalent to a GCSE grade 4, or the old C grade – in maths.

The work will involve supporting learners through putting on new, flexible courses designed to fit around their lives, and training more staff to teach numeracy.

A practical focus

The focus will be on functional, rather than theoretical, maths to show how useful it can be in real-life situations ranging from budgeting for shopping to understanding borrowing, credit and interest.

Leeds City College’s Director of Adult Curriculum, Joanne Dye, said: “Everyone talks about how simple budgeting is, but many people find it hard even though it is an essential skill – and especially important now while we face a cost of living crisis.

“We are delighted to have secured funding to deliver this vital programme. We are committed to improving access to numeracy skills for adults in our region, and this programme is an important step in that direction.”

Addressing a costly skills gap

A 2022 report found that more than half – 52% – of adults in West Yorkshire were at ‘entry level and below’ in terms of numeracy. National Numeracy’s research, meanwhile, says low numeracy skills could be costing the UK up to £25 billion a year.

The Multiply programme – which is being funded over three years, with West Yorkshire Combined Authority distributing the finances – will seek to address the issue locally by reengaging adults with maths.

Leeds City College and Keighley College are already piloting a project that asks English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students to take on tasks like banking or supermarket shopping.

The programme will also open up new work and educational possibilities for participants, and take them a step closer to being able to benefit from further support such as the Lifelong Loan Entitlement.

Making maths accessible to all

Luminate Education Group Vice Principal Ann Marie Spry, said: “We need to support those who still need to get Levels 1 and 2 in maths, and have a fear of the subject, to thrive in their personal and professional lives.

“Offering bespoke support, this programme will also help English for Speakers of Other Languages students who struggle with language barriers.

“We hope that through delivering the programme we can help adults in all walks of life develop improved financial skills; from planning their meals, or creating shopping lists and budgets, to understanding taxes and pensions.

“This will enable them to create a system to feel more financially secure, now and in the future.”

Multiply’s aims are part of a wider push by the government to improve and extend maths skills across the country, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently announcing his ambition to get everyone studying maths until the age of 18.

Luminate Education Group is the first provider in the north to be awarded ‘good’ for its teacher training provision

Our higher education and degree apprenticeship provision is celebrating after achieving a grade ‘Good’ following an inspection by Ofsted last month. The group is the first provider in the North East, Yorkshire and Humber to receive this grade under the new framework.

Member of the group, University Centre Leeds, is the training provider for the range of Initial Teacher Education (ITE)* courses that are on offer to trainees.  It was recognised for its passionate and expert leaders who oversee the quality of the ITE curriculum, ensuring that trainees meet the requirements and expectations of professional teachers.

The report also noted that trainees are well supported and developed as teachers across the group and understand how they can promote equality and inclusion through their work.

Dr Sarah Marquez, Dean of University Centre Leeds said: “We aim to provide a fully immersive teaching experience, by giving our trainee teachers access to employment and professional development opportunities in the education and training sector, which is an  essential part of the education ecosystem. 

“We are committed to raising the bar on the quality of education and training provided to trainee teachers and this grade is a testament to the hard work of our specialised teams and mentors who make their experiences and entry into this vocation worthwhile.”

The apprenticeship provision, meanwhile, was praised for creating an innovative, well-structured and carefully designed curriculum that enables apprentices to meet the professional requirements set out to carry out their roles and responsibilities effectively.

Bill Jones, Deputy CEO at Luminate Education Group, said: “This is a milestone achievement for our HE and apprenticeship provision and shows the level of commitment and dedication by our expert team to provide a high-quality curriculum.

“Our ITE provision has grown significantly over the last few years and we now have over 90 students undertaking further education and skills training at Level 5 or above, showing the depth and breadth of our programmes.”

“Our governors also play an important role in the quality of education provided. Through our recently-formed board at University Centre Leeds, they are actively involved in the continuous development of this provision.

“We are also working collaboratively with key stakeholders and partners in the sector to tackle the current challenges to identify how we can attract more people to take on teaching as a profession.”

The group is among the first large educational establishments to have been inspected under Ofsted’s new framework, which puts a greater focus on the impact providers have on  a trainee’s development and training, as well as the overall impact of the ITE education offered. 
For more information about Luminate Education Group, visit Luminate Education Group

Leeds Conservatoire receives over £1.6m from government sustainability scheme

Leeds Conservatoire, a member of Luminate Education Group, has been awarded over £1.6m to make environmental improvements to its building. 

The money has been provided by the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme; a Department for Energy Security and Net Zero initiative to help reduce carbon emissions across the country.

Leeds Conservatoire will be using the funds to replace old gas fire boilers, install double glazing and LED lighting, and replace its air heating and cooling systems.

Professor Joe Wilson, Principal at Leeds Conservatoire, said: “We take sustainability seriously and are pleased that these funds will help to reduce the conservatoire’s carbon footprint.

“We’re committed to becoming a net zero organisation by 2035, as outlined in Luminate Education Group’s newly launched Climate Emergency and Sustainable Development Pledge.”

Luminate Education Group’s institutions operate across multiple campuses plus smaller centres and community venues, with a substantial collective carbon footprint. 

The organisation’s Group Vice Principal for Development, David Warren, said: “This investment is important to us as we strive to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions across the group. We have already been making our campuses more energy efficient – through building improvements, waste reduction and energy generation, and are working on sustainable travel plans.

“We are also embedding sustainability into our curriculum, for example through offering carbon literacy training to all our students and staff, and increasing our green skills provision to support local employers as they embrace emerging technologies.

“We will be partnering closely with local organisations, businesses and community groups that value sustainability too, so we can coordinate our efforts and maximise the results.”

For more information about Leeds Conservatoire, visit www.leedsconservatoire.ac.uk 

West Yorkshire college leaders take their case for extra skills investment to Westminster

Leaders from across West Yorkshire have been speaking with MPs at Westminster as part of a national campaign to bring skills to the forefront of the government’s agenda. 

Principals from Leeds City College, Leeds College of Building, Keighley, Bradford, Kirklees, Shipley and Calderdale colleges, joined over a hundred leaders from across the country in calling for fairer funding, a right to lifelong learning and support for local skills shortages. 

Following 12 years of declining funding for adults and young people, a 2022 report from the Open University and British Chambers of Commerce found that more than 68 per cent of SMEs are currently facing skills shortages, rising to 86 per cent in large organisations. 

Bill Jones, Executive Principal at Leeds City College, said: “Education, particularly further education, has been central to the skills agenda for some time, and the sector has been tirelessly campaigning in order to get the necessary support from government to successfully close the skills gap. 

“All the industries where skills shortages are being felt most acutely are bridged by Level 4 or 5 skills and qualifications, which are delivered in further education colleges. We will continue campaigning collectively to keep FE front of mind and to remind government of the important role it plays.” 

As part of the campaign on 1 March, the principals were involved in a panel discussion, organised by the Future Skills Coalition, that focused on how the lack of funding for colleges is having a direct impact on the sector’s ability to deliver the skilled workers the economy needs. 

Nikki Davis, Leeds College of Building Principal & CEO, said: “Colleges are vital in addressing significant skills gaps across the economy, including the next generation of skilled construction professionals. Research shows that around a quarter of a million extra construction workers will be needed by 2026 to meet growing demands on the UK sector, and to counter an ageing workforce. 

“Without additional investment in further education, we will not be able to fill critical shortages in priority areas – such as net-zero carbon emissions and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) – and deliver the diverse labour market the country needs.” 

According to the Learning & Work Institute (L&W), 9 million working-aged adults in England have low basic skills in literacy or numeracy, including 5 million who have low skills in both. 

Palvinder Singh, Principal and Chief Executive at Kirklees College, said: “Adult education is essential to local and regional skills needs and for the social mobility of thousands of learners. 

“Insufficient funding for our adult provision limits opportunities for adult learners to gain the vital skills to support the future workforce and economy. This provision is essential for economic growth and productivity.” 

For more information on the campaign, visit Mind the skills gap – Parliamentary activity | Association of Colleges (aoc.co.uk) 

University Centre Leeds shortlisted in multiple categories for the Educate North Awards 2023

We’re pleased to announce that, following a very tough process, we have been shortlisted in seven categories of the Educate North Awards 2023.

The awards celebrate best practice and excellence in the education sector in the North, highlighting the achievements and progress of universities and the higher education, further education and sixth form sectors.  

The finalists will find out how they have fared at an awards ceremony in Manchester on Thursday 27 April.

We were shortlisted in the following categories:  

  • Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM Initiative Award) – University Centre Leeds, Chemistry Academy 
  • Business Collaboration & Partnerships Award – HE/FE Sector – HE Engineering 
  • External Relations Team of the Year – WP and Outreach Team 
  • Community Engagement Award – HE/FE Sector – Creative Arts in the Community 
  • Student Experience Award – HE/FE Sector – University Centre Leeds 
  • The Sustainable Green Initiative – The Wellbeing Walkway 
  • Business/Industry Collaboration – HE/FE Sector – HE Creative Arts  

All of the award submissions outlined the University Centre’s commitment  to support its staff and students. 

Our nomination for the Sustainable Green Initiative category, for example, featured the ‘wellbeing walkway’ that we created in collaboration with RE:, Leeds City College’s sustainable products workshop.

The Business Collaboration & Partnerships Award – HE/FE Sector nomination delighted Tamas Kovacs, Programme Manager for Engineering at University Centre Leeds. 

Tamas said: “The collaboration and partnership between the HE Engineering team and businesses/industry has enabled the development of a modern engineering workshop room that is equipped with industry-current automation and robotics instruments. 

“This enables employees, apprentices, and potential employees studying at University Centre Leeds to experience and become familiar with the facilities and equipment typical of the industry.”

You can find out more about the different categories here.

Vocational education is the key to helping people access a career in digital and closing the skills gap in Yorkshire

There are huge opportunities within the digital and tech sectors with the demand for skilled workers in these areas growing in the region. There are also clear barriers to accessing these opportunities and without acknowledging these and finding meaningful ways to overcome them, the region’s ability to progress and remain competitive will become stagnant.

It’s well-understood that there are huge opportunities within the tech and digital sectors, especially as the regional demand for skilled workers in these areas is growing. However, a misconception around digital and tech jobs leaves many thinking that it’s not relevant or accessible to them. There are also clear barriers to accessing these opportunities and without acknowledging these and finding meaningful ways to overcome them, the region’s ability to progress and remain competitive will become stagnant. Yet the data shows that pretty much any job, in any sector, requires some level of digital capability and understanding. 

While digital courses can provide deep skills development in a range of areas, including software programming, digital graphics, web design, networking and digital forensics, there are also courses that can cover off the basics – helping people feel more confident to take on new or higher paid job roles.

In years gone by, building a career in digital and IT would have simply involved studying a degree. While this is still a valuable way of gaining your tech credentials, today’s education market offers a range of other options to build up your knowledge, increase your confidence through real-life experience, and score some major CV points. One of these ways is through vocational further education.

According to the Learning and Work Institute, 52 per cent of the population lack the essential digital skills required for the workplace. These include being able to set up professional networking accounts, manage digital records and financial accounts, use appropriate software to analyse data (for example spreadsheets) and manage information securely. This, coupled with the fact that almost 70 percent of jobs in the digital sector are in non-tech careers, like HR, legal, finance and sales, illustrates that we are moving into an age where you can no longer progress in a career without having basic digital skills.

For many, the idea of returning to education isn’t an option due to time constraints and expense, but Leeds City College is one of many colleges that offers evening classes, the ability to study online and the option of committing to studying only one day a week. Community centres are often where these courses are held, so people can learn important skills such as website development, coding and computer programming without having to travel too far.

Leeds City College, a member of Luminate Education Group, firmly believes that vocational education could unlock the potential of many when it comes to meeting the skills demand in digital and tech. And this isn’t just about 16-19 year olds, but adults too. So whether it’s laying down the groundwork for a digital profession, making a career change, or looking to reach your next level of expertise, there are multiple ways to access a career in digital. Or at least ensure you have the foundations to help your progress in an ever digitally-focused world. 

While apprenticeships and access to higher education courses are also valuable routes into a digital role without having to go to university, it’s important to know that not every course has to be purely focused on digital. Many courses available teach transferable IT skills, helping to build confidence and boost career prospects. 

Vocational studies are accessible options for those that don’t necessarily have the entry requirements for university. There are many avenues to prepare for a future job role by upskilling and reskilling, and an apprenticeship is a great example of this as they are ideal for leaning on the job and working with others in the profession. We’re already offering courses in digital marketing, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, to name a few.

Within 20 years, 90 per cent of all jobs will require some element of digital skills (Learning and Work Institute, 2021) so preparing the workforce of today to be ready for this is essential. For many there is a fear of taking on a digital or technical qualification through a lack of understanding or feeling that it’s not relevant to them. Further education colleges are perfectly placed to offer a breadth of options for any level of learner looking to access jobs within these sectors, or simply looking to improve their basic digital skills. Whether it’s working closely with businesses or breaking down accessibility barriers, Leeds City College is determined to tackle the digital divide in a bid to support the workforce of the future. 

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