• News

    Our latest news.

  • News

    Our latest news.

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. 

Skills Minister joins Leeds Rhinos, Leeds City College and Redcentric for launch of pioneering scheme to mark National Apprenticeship Week

The Skills Minister has attended the launch of a ‘groundbreaking’ scheme in Yorkshire to mark National Apprenticeship Week.

Leeds City College and IT company Redcentric have been working with Leeds Rhinos to design an IT sales apprenticeship aimed at their athletes of all genders and abilities.

The arrangement gives professional and amateur athletes access to a world-class training programme while guaranteeing them employment in the UK’s IT services sector – effectively offering the best of both worlds.  Part of a wider project to expand and diversify Redcentric’s talent pool, the apprenticeship will also support the Leeds Rhinos Diversity and Inclusion plan and the Rugby Football League’s “Tackle It” initiative.

The Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education, Robert Halfon MP, was among the VIPs attending when Leeds Rhinos hosted the scheme’s launch event on 7 February. He said: “This new apprenticeship will help to not just tackle skills shortages, it’ll level the playing field for all.

“This is a huge, forward-looking investment from Leeds Rhinos who already employ many apprentices, offering a ladder of opportunity so that adults can retrain at any stage of their career, get involved in booming sectors like IT and tech and build a skills and apprenticeships nation.”

Bill Jones, Executive Principal at Leeds City College, said: “Despite the current economic backdrop, we want to be able to offer existing and future apprentices value-added courses that enhance their knowledge.

“The IT Services market in the United Kingdom is projected to grow by 6.74% and we want to build a future pipeline of talent to help drive growth across the sector and deliver great outcomes, not only for the Leeds City Region but for the UK.”

Also present at the launch was Jamie Jones Buchanan, Leeds Rhinos’ Head of Culture, Diversity and Inclusivity. Addressing the unique appeal of the initiative, he said:Through this apprenticeship scheme we are hoping to bridge the gap between sports and business, equipping sports people with the skills, tools and techniques to move into business at the appropriate point within their sporting career.”

The 12-month apprenticeship has been tailored to ensure apprentices are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully sell products while following the correct procedures. The project’s Collaborative Apprenticeship Scheme component, meanwhile, will include a fully funded Cyber and Spreadsheets short course that will be taught remotely.

Redcentric, which is hoping to recruit around 50 apprentices over the next 12 to 24 months, launched a pilot of the IT technician sales apprenticeship at the end of 2022.  There are currently four pioneers of the scheme in place with an academy player from Leeds Rhinos already signed up and set to join in February. There are plans to recruit 10 Rhinos players to take on an apprenticeship with the firm, or other suitable employers, as the scheme grows.

College provision for 14-16 can no longer be overlooked

Alan Mckenna

More must be done to support direct-entry learners in further education settings as the provision offers a critical lifeline for some, writes Alan McKenna

Around 10,000 14- to 16-year-olds study in further education colleges, yet this cohort is too often overlooked. Since its inception in 2013, provision for these learners has occupied a grey area between secondary and further education, meaning they have routinely been underrepresented in government policy and funding. Being measured against the Progress 8 framework is just one example of how these provisions are unfairly judged.

This lack of awareness is particularly problematic given the vulnerability of the young people who access these provisions. There is a huge misconception among educators and the public that such services are simply for those who are badly behaved, when in reality many of these young people are struggling as a result of complex situations, such as poor mental health or bullying.

These situations can create barriers to learning, which often result in young people failing to gain the essential numeracy and literacy skills they require for later life. The long-term consequences for young people without these competencies are significant, ranging from reduced employment opportunities to an increased risk of physical and mental health complications.

Ultimately, it’s our fear as educators that young people who do not find support outside of a mainstream school environment are vulnerable to becoming NEET – not in employment, education or training.

But the possibility of negative outcomes for this cohort only serves to highlight the importance of a sound educational infrastructure that properly supports their needs.

Research is key

Last year, the Association of Colleges (AoC) announced that, for the first time, they will be undertaking research that will explore outcomes for thousands of 14- to 16-year-olds in colleges across the country. This is something we have been desperate for. The hope is that this research will create a better understanding of what it means to run a 14-16 provision and the positive outcomes that learners can experience as a result.

In response to the research launch, we produced a video sharing staff, student and parent experiences of direct-entry college provision. Through sharing their stories, those at the very heart of the system make a passionate plea to policymakers to invest in a model that is working.

This research comes at a critical time for provisions such as ours. When a young person or parent is seeking an alternative environment to mainstream school, we know that they are already at risk of dropping out of education completely.

The problem is that there simply isn’t the capacity to deal with the current demand for these services, meaning that not every young person gets access to the help they need.

An alternative educational setting

Our students have gone on to achieve great things, whether that’s in employment or continued education, and this success is due to the model of education we have developed.

Our curriculum is designed specifically to support young people who have become disenfranchised with mainstream school, and our bespoke approach to how we work and engage with our young people is set up to remove potential barriers to learning and to cultivate an environment where students feel accepted and welcome. We’ve also partnered with local NHS service MindMate to integrate mental health support and mindfulness within the curriculum.

This approach to learning and engaging with others fosters a sense of security and mutual respect, providing a strong foundation to give young people the life skills they need to progress positively in life. Students and parents have also praised how the balance of core subject learning, vocational training and pastoral support has given learners a ‘head start’ and restored their passion for learning.

The issue we have now is that we need more funding so we can offer the same positive outcomes for more learners, in Leeds and nationally.

As chair of the 14-16 Special Interest Group, I am delighted that the AoC is leading this vital project in unearthing and informing the next steps for 14-16 provision in further education. We know there is a growing demand for something different to mainstream environments and we believe this model is it.

Luminate Education Group launches first employer board

We have launched an employer board to ensure the courses we offer are aligned with industry needs across the region. 

The Luminate Employer Board consists of organisations such as Leeds Health and Care Academy, Colas and Bradford Manufacturing Week, to oversee the development of courses in crucial sectors such as digital, engineering, manufacturing, health and more.

The new-look board is a direct response to the Skills for Jobs White Paper and Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, which requires colleges to review how well the education or training provided by the institution meets local needs.

As part of the new structure, employers will be able to influence curriculum and its delivery to ensure that it meets labour market needs. 

Bill Jones, Deputy CEO of Luminate Education Group and Vice Chair of the board, said: “By working together, we will not only create a blueprint for the future of skills but also contribute to our productivity levels in the region.

“The board comes at an opportune time where we will be able to work closely with employers who will not only influence the design of curriculum across a range of key sectors, but who will be key to helping us understand the gaps and needs of each industry as a whole, particularly crucial sectors such as digital.

“We’re committed to driving the skills agenda forward and providing sought-after skills for the economy and employers. Addressing the digital skills gap and the changing nature of work is one of our key priorities and we will work together to ensure that we are transforming lives through education.”

Michelle Stanley

Michelle Stanley, Head of Leeds One Workforce Programme, at Leeds Health and Care Academy said: “We are delighted to be part of Luminate’s employer board. The group works with a wide range of employers, and we have had the opportunity to work collaboratively with them through the Yorkshire Centre for Training and Development.

“We look forward to working with and building relationships that will play a major role in helping us collectively deliver in-demand skills that are in line with the levelling up agenda, and that will cement further success for the region.

The board’s long-term goals include providing a mechanism for employers to provide feedback on their skills and training requirements as well as to contribute to curriculum design, delivery and assessment, particularly apprenticeships, higher apprenticeships, T Levels, Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) and other vocational / technical qualifications. 

Leeds Conservatoire Leads Session on Classical Music Inclusivity at ABO Conference

Leeds Conservatoire’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team led a session titled Is There a Seat for Someone Like Me? at the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) Conference.

The ABO represents the collective interests of professional orchestras, youth ensembles and the wider classical music industry throughout the UK, and the conference is its primary event each year. This year’s conference took place from 1 to 3 February at Opera North’s Howard Assembly Room.

The conference explored the experiences of underrepresented student musicians in the orchestral talent pipeline, creating conversations around what more the industry should do to welcome underrepresented talent, develop inclusive practice and tackle systemic inequalities.

Nick Burdett, Projects Team Manager and EDI Lead at Leeds Conservatoire, said, “Having the opportunity to create conversations that share the lived experiences of some of our underrepresented students with industry leaders in the orchestral sector is extremely valuable. It is vital for the next generation of musicians to have visible, relatable role models within the industry to develop a genuine sense of belonging.

“We know that there is still a long way to go to make sure that there is a seat for everyone, but by working together we hope to create the positive, systemic changes that all of our future orchestral musicians deserve to experience. We hope to continue the work with our students, staff and partners to influence inclusive practice across the sector as a whole.”

The session was a great opportunity for Leeds Conservatoire to collaborate with some of its partners, with Black Lives in Music, Opera North and Orchestras Live all supporting the facilitation alongside current conservatoire students and staff members. Together they led conversations surrounding ethnicity, gender and neurodiversity, raising the profile of Leeds Conservatoire’s ongoing EDI work and commitments, and creating conversations to support the changes we hope to see for our musicians who wish to enter the industry, with leading organisations from across the UK.

Roger Wilson, Director of Operations at Black Lives in Music, said, “This was a fantastic session and brilliantly led by the conservatoire’s EDI team, who maintained sensitivity at the centre of this very important narrative. Bringing diverse voices into one space can only pay dividends. The effect is all the more powerful when those voices have so much lived experience.

“The compelling and personal stories that were shared, facilitated a visceral connection with the session content for those in the room. Having this opportunity to listen, talk and share is important in order to be reflective, learn and to be active in the campaign for real representation and establish safe and inclusive spaces in our sector.”

Becky Smith, Head of Higher Education Partnerships at Opera North, added, “As someone who works for an organisation which supports talent development in our sector and actively engages with student musicians through our partnership with Leeds Conservatoire and other institutions, the session provided a space for thoughtful reflection and discussion on what we are doing and could be doing better to ensure inclusive practice is embedded in all our activities.

“The scenarios discussed, lived experiences shared and positive suggestions made for improvement were really valuable and will hopefully inform and lead to some positive change as we move forward.”

Shadow ministers Rachel Reeves and Bridget Phillipson visit Leeds City College

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson visited Leeds City College’s Printworks Campus this month, as the shadow government laid out its plans for the education sector.

The Leeds and Sunderland MPs met with Shaid Mahmood, Chair of Governors for Luminate Education Group, Bill Jones, Deputy CEO of Luminate Education Group, and Printworks Campus Principal, Cheryl Smith. Cheryl shared her overall vision for the campus and future plans for the growth and expansion of teaching spaces, before giving the visitors a tour of the facilities.

During the hour-and-a-half long visit, Bill spoke at length about the college’s short-to-long-term plans to provide fantastic learning facilities for students, including creating new spaces to accommodate the growing number of students (post 16 education) within Leeds.

He added that the college is in need of more space and is continuing to look for more funding to develop its existing spaces to make them more efficient.

He also spoke about how Leeds City College is tailoring its offering to match the skills needs of the region, with a focus on digital and that with improved investment, the sector could contribute, to an even greater extent, to the nation’s drive for improved growth and productivity.

The tour, meanwhile, included the college’s hair and beauty provision, as well as a tour of the School of Engineering. 

Rachel and Bridget had the opportunity to meet with students from both schools and many of them shared their experiences and aspirations for the future. 

Rachel and Bridget had the opportunity to speak to students

They also had the opportunity to see students demonstrate some of the practical skills they have learnt since joining the college, including hair colouring and manicures.

From micro aerospace components to medical instruments, precise parts are the key to keeping some of the most critical aspects of our modern world running smoothly.  

Engineering student Harry Souter

Level 3 engineering student Harry Souter, demonstrated the use of the mill turn machine.

Harry explained how the mill turn worked and its ability to create more complex and intricate parts without needing to transfer the part from one machine to another. 

Mitch Scott, Head of the School of Engineering said: “Manufacturing these very small parts requires the right state-of-the-art equipment coupled with the talent and dedication of the next generation of machinists.”

Cheryl spoke about how the college is working closely with employers so that they are able to directly influence the courses.

“Employers are key in helping us shape our curriculum so that we are able to better equip our students for their future careers. We are now looking at developing progression and destination opportunities for students, this includes our T Level and apprenticeship programmes.”

Rachel Reeves said: “It was brilliant to visit Printworks [campus] with Bridget. 

“Colleges are at the heart of Labour’s ambition for education. We know that by improving skills and creating the good jobs our country needs, we will drive growth and make our economy stronger.”

Bridget added: “Improving skills will drive the growth our country needs for the jobs and economy of the future.”
For more information about courses at Printworks visit the website

Website designed and built by Web Phizix