Council’s £10m jobs investment

County Coun Geoff Driver, the leader of Lancashire County Council
County Coun Geoff Driver, the leader of Lancashire County Council
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The leader of Lancashire County Council has said plugging the county’s skills gap is a key ambition.

County Coun Geoff Driver said that he wanted to link up with the county’s schools and colleges to ensure it had the skills to drive its economic future.

The county council is expected to approved details of a new £10m scheme which will help 5,000 young people into work over the next five years.

The programme includes a £5m investment in the council’s professional apprenticeship and training programme.

It is proposed a further £3.25m will go to supporting young people who are not in education, employment or training through initiatives to help them into long-term jobs.

And £1.75m would fund a service to manage and engage young people in the different programmes, with the goal of involving 1,000 people each year for five years.

Speaking at an event organised by business lobbying group Downtown Lancashire in Business on Tuesday, County Coun Driver said skills was a key priority of the county’s new Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the body set up to push forward its economy.

He said: “One of the key things we need to do is to widen the base so that there is a bigger pool of skilled people in the area.

“A key to this is getting schools and colleges on board so that they are equipping young people with the skills that business needs.

“This is a key goal of the LEP, if we fail to do that it will be a missed opportunity.”

The council’s cabinet will be asked to approve details of the scheme when it meets on June 7.

The £10m fund was previously set aside as part of the council’s 2012/13 budget, however, this proposal sets out for the first time how exactly the money would be used.

The county council has increased its apprenticeship programme from 16 in 2006 to more than 400 today - with more than 900 apprentices having taken part overall.

The programme has been recognised as an example of best practice and has saved in the region of £7m a year by reducing the amount the council spends on agency staff.

If approved, the new scheme will be delivered by the learning and development service in One Connect Limited, the partnership between the county council and BT.

County Coun Driver added: “This is a major investment in the future of thousands of young people, their families and Lancashire’s economy.

“The county council’s apprenticeship scheme is already a huge success. This proposal will allow us to expand it considerably, with opportunities in everything from children’s social work to accountancy.

“It also targets reducing the number of young people who aren’t in education, employment or training because in this economic climate it’s clear some people need more support before they can stand on their own two feet.

“I have said before we would use this money to create a positive legacy for Lancashire and the proposal will do just that.”