Monday, 5 September 2011

Council chiefs to discuss business led centre of excellence

Leeds is set to harness its status as a retail destination to create employment and training opportunities for young people and the unemployed.

Council chiefs are this week set to discuss the idea of developing the Retail Academy in the city, to build a business-led centre of excellence for a sector that is a major contributor to the Leeds economy.

Despite the financial challenges, Leeds City Council is committed to providing people with the skills they need to find employment, and is looking to add to its current offering of apprenticeships, jobs and skills training.

In July, the rate of claimants of jobs seekers allowance in Leeds was 4.2% – above the national average claimant rate of 3.7%. In an effort to get this figure down, the council is working with partners in the private sector on a range of projects to create opportunities, particularly for the young.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council said:

“The retail sector continues to play an important role in the local economy. We of course have significant new retail developments such as Trinity and Eastgate in the city centre and others at out of town sites which will create significant numbers of jobs.

“It is vital that we equip local people with the skills to make the most of the opportunities these developments will bring. This is particularly important for our young people, for whom opportunities are so hard to come by at present. We want to build a stronger local partnership with businesses and the city’s learning institutions to provide these young people with a brighter future.”

“The Retail Academy and the Apprenticeship Training Association are key parts of that strategy and will put Leeds on the map as a centre of excellence for training and apprenticeships.”

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for jobs and skills said:
“Helping local people back into work is a key priority for the council, and with a number of new and exciting developments around the city, now is a great time for people to make the most of learning and training opportunities to learn new skills and kick start their career.

“Apprenticeships are becoming more popular as a route in to work and for employers to up-skill their workforce. By working in partnership with the private sector, these projects present an opportunity to increase the number of apprenticeships and ensure the city’s workforce meets the needs of businesses.

“We have already secured around 300 new apprenticeships in Leeds through the Leeds Apprenticeship Challenge and will look to build on that positive engagement with our partners as we work together to make this happen.”

Discussions have already been held with major city employers including Asda, Tesco and Harvey Nicholls about how to develop the Retail Academy, which would play a key role in supporting new recruits to the sector at both entry and graduate level as well as supporting the continued development employees into supervisory and management roles.

As part of its partnership initiative, Leeds City Council is looking to explore the idea of establishing an Apprenticeship Training Association with the city’s further education colleges.

Notes to editors:

The council currently undertakes a number of initiatives to help people get back into work and learn new skills, including the council’s own apprenticeship programme, and working with local learning providers to deliver programmes.

In 2010/11, over 850 adults achieved accredited qualifications across a range of skills, from construction to childcare, with 390 adults supported to access full time education and over 1600 people were supported into employment.

For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450