THE Sheffield region is today being given the chance to create 4,000 apprenticeships and to offer skills training to 2,000 workers as part of a pioneering deal with the Government, writes Peter Kay.
Public and private sector funds totalling £72m are being offered as part of a package designed to allow cities to take closer control over reviving their economies.
There is also the prospect of at least £500m over the next 10 years through a separate scheme in the Sheffield area for infrastructure and transport, including improvements to local bus services.
And it is thought that Sheffield can expect extra Government financial help towards the regeneration of the city centre, notably towards kickstarting the long-delayed Sevenstone retail quarter.
Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg hailed the City Deal as “a hugely significant step forward” for Sheffield, bringing “genuinely significant improvements to the lives of ordinary Sheffielders.
He said: “It’s a radical departure from a decades-long patronising approach to Sheffield and other cities, where bureaucrats in London held an iron grip on the purse strings. This is about giving Sheffield greater freedom to make our own decisions about what is best for our city.
“A focus on advancing skills, revamping the city centre and improving our transport infrastructure is a fantastic package for Sheffield. This is only a first step but it’s a big first step to restoring Sheffield and other cities as the economic powerhouses of this country. Our transport deal will ensure that our workforce can travel faster, smarter and more efficiently.
“This deal is essential to achieving our growth potential and devolves the power to make transport decisions which focus on growing the City Region’s economy.”
The deal covers the Sheffield region, which extends across South Yorkshire and north Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and aims to ensure decisions on how money is spent on key issues such as skills and transport are made by local businesses and organisations which understand local needs.
Funds for the 4,000 apprenticeships and skills training for 2,000 workers are being channelled through a three-year plan with the Sheffield City Region’s Skills and Employment Partnership.
It includes £44.4m of local public and private sector investment, £23.8m of Government funding and an additional £4m from the Government.
Council leader Julie Dore said: “All the councils in the region are committed to working with business leaders to make sure that we invest this money in the skills we need to grow the local economy, and provide the jobs and opportunities for the people that live and work here.
“The City Deal on transport is very similar. Currently we have to go cap-in-hand to Government and argue for investment in the major transport schemes that we know will make the biggest difference to the region’s economy. It can then take years to get a decision. The City Deal guarantees us at least £500m of transport funding over the next 10 years, meaning that we can get on with delivering the schemes we know will make the biggest difference.”
James Newman, Chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The skills deal gives businesses unprecedented control over the way in which our skills system works, so that we can make sure we have a highly skilled workforce which corresponds with the City Region’s business needs.”