GMCA approves £2m investment to overcome barriers to adult learning and skills in Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has approved new plans for more than £2 million in funding to improve vulnerable adults’ access to adult learning.

The funding, which will be shared between the 10 local authorities and the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector, has been made available through the GMCA Adult Education Budget (AEB), with contributions from the Local Growth Fund (LGF).

The AEB, worth £96 million, is devolved from central Government to the GMCA and supports more than 70,000 residents per year with skills training and education.

This programme of funding will enable local authorities to support their residents in new ways not seen before under the AEB.

The funding can complement existing activities, including tackling digital exclusion, better improving co-ordination of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) activitiesm, and a flexible project to respond to barriers experienced by residents in the locality area.

The funds also include Digital Kit & Connectivity funding, funded through the LGF, to support kit and connectivity issues for residents.

Cllr Sean Fielding, Leader for Oldham Council and GMCA Lead for the Employment, Skills and Digital portfolio, said: “With the coronavirus pandemic our colleges and training providers within Greater Manchester have made great steps in delivering services remotely while still providing training and skills support to learners.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for greater support for our digitally excluded residents, and I’m pleased to see our city-region respond in this way to ensure no resident is left behind.”

In some parts of Greater Manchester, over 25 per cent of residents do not have basic digital skills, such as being able to surf the internet safely.

Local authorities have also highlighted that demand for ESOL education is greater than the supply, with all reporting a waiting list. The aim of the programmes will to address these issues locally, enabling residents to access learning which will improve their skills and employability.

The VCSE sector will benefit from funding to support volunteers and staff to access funded skills provision. This programme will be co-designed with colleagues from the VCSE Sector.

Joanne Roney OBE, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council and Lead Chief Executive for Education, Skills, Work and Apprenticeships, said:

“Through the devolved Adult Education Budget we have more control over how we provide support to residents who might struggle to access education and training. 

“This investment will allow local authorities and voluntary and community organisations to target support for their most vulnerable residents, with a view to increasing accessibility and take-up of adult learning.

“It’s more important than ever that we make sure tailored, accessible support is available to everyone who needs it. Through these grants local authorities will be in a better position to address barriers for adults who want to access education but find it difficult to do so.”

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