Leicestershire colleges are joining forces with employers to develop a pioneering strategy that sets out the sport and fitness skills needed to impact human health in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four colleges, the East Midlands Chamber and the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport & Physical Activity (CIMSPA) collaborated to successfully bid to become a government Skills Accelerator Programme pilot area – one of only eight in the UK.
The colleges involved are Loughborough College, Leicester College, the SMB College Group and North Warwickshire & South Leicestershire College (NWSLC).
Together, they will explore how the Further Education and physical activity sectors can play a role in health and the wider economy; particularly around preventative health and Long COVID recovery, as well as other social issues such as youth crime, education, the ageing population and social mobility.
Jo Maher, Principal & CEO at Loughborough College, said: “Collaboration is the key to supporting the skills-led recovery from Covid. The impact on human health has never been more important to understand and to improve.
“We’re so delighted to work with all the Leicestershire general further education colleges, CIMSPA and the Chamber because, through our shared value set and excellent employer network, we can support our fantastic region, and beyond, to thrive.”
Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive at NWSLC, said: “We are delighted to be working in collaboration with colleges and employers across the region. Here at NWSLC we have a long history of working with local employers to deliver essential skills training for the current and future workforce. Through this initiative all the partners will be able to work towards extending training across wider industry sectors and develop stronger relationships with our local employers.”
Verity Hancock, Principal and CEO at Leicester College, said: "Skills-based training and further education courses are at the heart of everything that we do so we're delighted to extend our engagement with local employers as part of this innovative pilot programme.
"The pandemic has been particularly challenging for the whole further education sector. This opportunity to collaborate with the East Midlands Chamber, CIMPSA and other colleges in Leicestershire will provide us with a platform to focus more sharply on the skills agenda and help to make a positive impact on health and wellbeing."
Dawn Whitemore, Chief Executive and Principal of SMB College Group, said: “SMB College Group are delighted to be working in collaboration with employers and our fellow Leicestershire colleges to provide vital skills-based training during the post-Covid recovery period. Further Education colleges have, and will continue to, play a crucial role in our local communities during this time, and we look forward to the great things that will come from being part of a Skills Accelerator Programme pilot area.”
Tara Dillon, CEO of CIMSPA, said: “It’s fantastic news that our joint bid has been successful, and chosen as one of just a handful of Skills Accelerator programme pilots. This is a significant recognition from the Government of the vital role that sport and physical activity can play in the health and prosperity of the nation, as well as being an endorsement of the potential that exists in this part of the country.”
East Midlands Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles said: “In our conversations with businesses we represent, it’s clear that one of the biggest barriers to their growth during the post-Covid economic recovery is a lack of skills to fill vacancies they are creating.
“Giving employers a central role in the skills agenda is therefore a major step in the right direction and we’re excited about working with Leicestershire colleges, training provider partners and CIMSPA in this Skills Accelerator pilot – with a keen focus on health and wellbeing, a subject that has grown in prominence over the past 18 months.”
The Skills Accelerator Programme is a £65m government scheme aimed at putting local employers at the centre of skills provision whilst building stronger partnerships between employers and their local Further Education colleges, other local training providers, and ensuring that provision meets local needs.
The pilot covers Leicestershire and Leicester City and focuses on the sport & physical activity sector and its impact on human health.
Within Leicestershire the sport & physical activity sector employs 9,435 individuals with 84% being micro-employers with an additional 1,200 self-employed. There are 515 vat registered employers inside the proposed pilot area. There are 15 venues that host national and international sport events which help contribute around £544m to the local economy.