Innovative WMCA Apprenticeship Levy Fund hits £38m
20th December 2022
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A unique community scheme funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has helped over 1,100 people either get into work or improve their employment prospects.

Connecting Communities, an employment support pilot programme funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and overseen by the WMCA, provided people with tailored job advice and specialist support in the heart of their own neighbourhoods.

Launched in 2018, the innovative programme took a distinctive approach to supporting participants to find employment by going into local communities to support those who might not otherwise get access to this support.

Of the 1,123 participants that the programme supported into work, 458 were working participants who were looking to progress to a new role with increased hours or a higher pay bracket. The programme proved to be invaluable during the pandemic as residents were given a chance to maintain their confidence and stay active in what was a troubling time for the job market.

With the pilot now officially coming to an end, WMCA and its partners will be using the findings to inform the commissioning of future skills and employment programmes to further support residents back into work.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “The Connecting Communities programme has been a wonderful success for our region and an important part of my 100k jobs plan.

“Having a physical presence in local settings has helped us to develop trust, build partnerships, and engage with residents right in the very heart of communities that we might have struggled to reach previously.

“Following positive conversations with Government, I’m confident that we can support even more programmes similar in nature to Connecting Communities once we conclude our Trailblazer Devolution Deal negotiations and establish the form that future potential devolved powers and funding could take.”

One of those benefitting from the scheme was Andressa Zander, who moved to the UK from Brazil in 2020. Andressa struggled to find work due to language issues, a lack of technical support, and a loss in confidence.

Andressa is now working as an administrator for the Restart Scheme in Coventry, which is being delivered by Reed in Partnership to help long-term unemployed people back into work.

She said: “The Connecting Communities programme made a huge difference in the beginning of my journey in a new country, and it was one of the most impactful experiences I've ever been involved with.

“I received valuable information on how to build my CV, cover letter and how to prepare for interviews, as well professional help to restore the confidence that I had lost since arriving in the UK.

“I'm very satisfied with what I've been able to achieve and feel an immense sense of gratitude towards the project.”

Cllr George Duggins, WMCA portfolio lead for skills and productivity and leader of Coventry City Council, said: “It is wonderful news to hear of the success that the Connecting Communities programme has had for so many individuals across the West Midlands.”

“Schemes like this show that the WMCA is working hard to give everyone the chance to benefit from job opportunities in the West Midlands.”

To read the full report on the success of the Connecting Communities scheme, please visit the WMCA website.

About the Author

Ian Henery

Member since: 4th February 2019

Presenter Black Country Radio & Black Country Xtra

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