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Free training courses for those on £30,000 or less

Thousands more people could benefit from free training to boost employment prospects in plans to expand access to courses to those earning £30,000 or less.

Dr Julie Nugent, the WMCA’s executive director of economic delivery, skills and communities. Credit: WMCA

Employers in the West Midlands are struggling to fill about a quarter of vacancies due the ‘qualification gap’ as not enough residents hold a level three or higher qualification.

This means people are missing out on the opportunity to earn approximately £4,000 more than they would at the level two tier, according to WMCA research.

Holding a level three or above qualification means you are more likely to be employed and to earn more, and less likely to claim in-work benefits than at level two or below.

Currently, WMCA funded level three training courses, equivalent to an advanced technical certificate or diploma, or two A-levels,  are only available to people on salaries of £18,000 or under.

But the WMCA wants to raise the boundary to include those on £30,000 or less which would make it the highest threshold in the country.

Qualification levels in the West Midlands are lower than the national average, with one in 10 adults in the WMCA area holding no qualifications at all.

Just over half (54.9 per cent) hold a level three qualification compared with 61.5 per cent nationally, resulting in a region wide skills shortage, with one in four vacancies regarded as ‘hard to fill’.

Dr Julie Nugent, the WMCA’s executive director of economic delivery, skills and communities, said: “The West Midlands region has enormous economic potential, but we recognise that at the moment our qualification levels currently sit below the national average.

“As a result, employers face persistent skills shortages, with around one in four vacancies classed as ‘hard to fill’, particularly in roles that require advanced and higher skills.

“Creating a new avenue for below average range earners to continue their learning is a vital step in tackling these issues and ensuring that the skills needs of businesses are met and more people are supported through in-work progression across the region.”

At present, the plans are at proposal stage and are due to go through consultation over the next ten days.

If successful, training will begin with a two year trial starting in August.

The WMCA also wants grant-funded training providers to commit to 20 per cent of their provision being at level three, in line with its adult education budget strategy.

Proposals will be funded from existing AEB and free courses for jobs programme budgets.

Interested stakeholders have until 10am on April 24, 2023 to respond to the consultation.

For more information on the AEB and courses that are offered by the WMCA, visit

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