NEW local powers over adult education funding will create a “significant opportunity” to boost Bradford’s low skills levels.

Bradford currently is currently one of the most “acutely deprived” areas nationally in terms of adult skills, with above average levels of adults who lack full English language proficiency and with 14 per cent of adults in the District lacking any formal qualifications.

Under a West Yorkshire Devolution Deal announced by the Government in March, a new elected mayor would be granted power over the adult education budget for the area - estimated to be around £63 million a year.

Bradford Council to launch ambitious plan to boost skills

Of this, roughly 80 per cent is used by colleges and local authorities through grant funding, with the remaining 20 per cent contracted to independent training providers.

This money is allocated across the region by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

At a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority today, representatives from Councils in the region will be given an update on the plans to devolve this funding. A report to members says: “Taking on these devolved powers is a significant opportunity for the region. It is, however, a new function for the Combined Authority which has previously had no formal influence over adult education budget planning or delivery.”

If the timetable is met - the budget will be devolved in August 2021.

Today’s meeting will be presented with an Adult Education Budget Strategy - which sets out how the devolved budget will be used, and the challenges facing the area.

The strategy says the main priorities for the budget will be increasing the supply of skills to support key sectors in West Yorkshire, improving the area’s resilience by delivering skills needed for the future, making learning more inclusive to support disadvantaged residents, support the unemployed to gain and sustain employment and unlock progression opportunities and career adaptability through skills, particularly for those on low wages and with insecure work.

It points out that providing the workforce with new skills will be particularly important as West Yorkshire recovers from the Covid 19 pandemic and many people may need to find new careers.

Referring to existing challenges in the area, it adds: “West Yorkshire has large numbers of people who lack basic literacy and numeracy. Pockets of acute deprivation are also linked to a lack of skills. West Yorkshire has more than twice its ‘fair share’ of neighbourhoods that are among the most acutely deprived in terms of adult skills.

“Bradford and Wakefield are particularly badly affected. This highlights the importance of targeted outreach through the adult education budget.”

Of all the Districts in West Yorkshire, Bradford has the highest level of adults with no qualifications - 14 per cent compared to the West Yorkshire average of nine per cent.

Just 26 per cent of Bradford adults have a qualification above A Level, compared to 40 per cent in Leeds.