A RANGE of initiatives has been put in place to help people across Keighley and the rest of the region develop skills and training to find work.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and West Yorkshire Combined Authority have introduced various measures, as latest figures show the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on unemployment levels.

Data reveals that between March and the end of September, the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits in West Yorkshire almost doubled to 109,475.

Business leaders from across the region heard at a partnership board meeting about the help being offered to people of all ages to maintain and develop their skills.

Measures include the creation of at-home learning resources to help young people, expanded efforts to support the training of unemployed or furloughed adults and the implementation of recommendations from the Future-Ready Skills Commission.

Roger Marsh, who chairs the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and a group of northern local enterprise partnerships known as NP11, said: “The effect of Covid-19 has been devastating for so many people and businesses in our region, with the number of people out of work almost doubling since March.

“The pandemic has redoubled our commitment to making sure everyone can find the right skills and training to help them get on in life and make ours a productive economy that works for everybody.”

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe – chairman of West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the Future-Ready Skills Commission, and leader of Bradford Council – said: “Combined authorities are best-placed to understand what skills our changing economy needs both now and in the future – and to design programmes to address this.

“Exploring how we can implement the Future-Ready Skills Commission’s recommendations is a key part of our efforts to support the people of West Yorkshire as we recover from the pandemic and give everyone the means and opportunity to train and get on in life.”

Since the start of the first lockdown in March, the partnership and combined authority have redeveloped the FutureGoals website – at futuregoals.co.uk – to offer careers and skills guidance for every age group.

FutureGoals Remote, launched over the summer, offers interactive activities to help young people develop skills from home during lockdown.

An adult retraining programme has been targetting graduates, furloughed staff and those made unemployed through Covid-19. The programme offers 24 online courses, giving people the chance to upskill in key areas of construction, manufacturing and engineering and in the fast-growing digital and creative sectors.

By late October, the partnership’s employment hub had received over 500 individual enquiries and 70 from businesses.

The service, part-funded by the European Social Fund, matches jobseekers to opportunities across the region.

More than a third of business enquiries requested recruitment support and a fifth sought backing to hire an apprentice.

Recommendations from the Future-Ready Skills Commission will be used to help create a new regional Employment and Skills Plan for 2021-25.

The combined authority takes on responsibility for West Yorkshire’s adult education budget from August next year and it plans to expand the successful use of delivery agreements with colleges – as recommended by the commission – to make the skills system “more responsive to local needs”. Commission findings have also been incorporated into a West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Plan.