£17m investment in Midlands digital future

“We are thrilled about this ambitious project, and the work Staffordshire University, local businesses, councils and employers are doing to provide real opportunities for more and better higher level apprenticeships. The Digital Apprenticeships and Skills Hub will make sure businesses and individuals have the technical skills they need to get on – and that everyone is able to pursue the jobs or careers that are right for them.”

Government Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton

An ambitious £17m project to drive up the number of skilled digital apprentices in Staffordshire and the region has been given the green light.

Staffordshire University has secured £8 million funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Catalyst Fund towards the cost of the landmark project, which will see a new state of the art Digital Apprenticeships and Skills Hub built on its Stoke-on-Trent campus.

It also includes a £5m funding pot for the design and delivery of new apprenticeships that will meet the needs of 21st century employers.

Welcoming the announcement, Government Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said: “We are thrilled about this ambitious project, and the work Staffordshire University, local businesses, councils and employers are doing to provide real opportunities for more and better higher level apprenticeships. The Digital Apprenticeships and Skills Hub will make sure businesses and individuals have the technical skills they need to get on – and that everyone is able to pursue the jobs or careers that are right for them.”

The new development confirms Staffordshire University’s reputation as a national leader in the delivery of higher and degree apprenticeships as well as addressing the skills shortages affecting Staffordshire and the wider region.

Staffordshire University Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Professor Liz Barnes said: “There is a clear and pressing need to develop high levels skills for young people in our area and we are delighted to have secured HEFCE Catalyst funding for our project which provides a blueprint for Higher Education.”

“We are thrilled to be growing our learning community and connecting with our employers to develop digitally enabled apprentices who will positively impact on the region’s capabilities.”

The Digital Apprenticeships and Skills hub, set to open in 2020, aims to deliver more than 6,500 new apprenticeships over the next decade. It will also act as a one stop shop for UK employers looking to access the best support and advice on apprenticeships.

Yvonne Hawkins, HEFCE’s Director for Universities and Colleges said: “We are very pleased to be able to support this project which should have significant impact on skills and employability in the region. It complements a range of recent investments we have made across the UK in skills development, both in higher and degree apprenticeships and in new and enhanced higher education courses to provide the skills needed in the future economy. We look forward to seeing the Staffordshire hub develop and deliver excellent outcomes for both students and industry."

Microsoft has already been identified as a partner in the project and the world-leading technology company will supply equipment and expertise to ensure all apprentices achieve a high level of digital literacy to increase their own employability and benefits for employers.

“We believe it is important that the UK continues to provide varied routes into digital careers." said Chris Perkins, Microsoft’s Public Sector Lead and Executive sponsor for skills. "Through our Microsoft Digital Skills Programme, we’re committed to helping everyone in the UK take a step up in their digital skills and prepare for the jobs of the future. Our collaboration with Staffordshire University is part of this ongoing commitment and our pledge to create 30,000 new Digital Apprenticeship opportunities through our Apprenticeship Training Partners by 2020.”

The project has the backing of Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, college partners and employer representatives including Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce which will work with the University to set up an Apprenticeship Training Agency. Based at the hub, the new Agency will be managed by the Chamber with the purpose of helping small businesses to benefit from apprenticeship opportunities.

Sara Williams, Chief Executive of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, added: “The Digital Apprenticeships and Skills Hub is a fantastic development for Staffordshire. The Digital Economy will play a crucial role in the future of business, and this facility will help businesses large and small to develop the skills of their workforce and provide opportunities for apprenticeships. Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce will be working closely with Staffordshire University in setting up the Apprenticeship Training Agency, helping businesses and learners make the most of this great project.”

  • HEFCE is the Higher Education Funding Council for England. HEFCE’s Catalyst fund provides targeted investment in projects led by universities and colleges.The fund supports a range of student and HE sector priorities, including innovation in higher education, efficiency and effectiveness, skills and employability, and student interest issues. A recent report by Deloitte on the economic impact of HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund found significant benefits for students, the economy and society.

  • Staffordshire University plays a lead role in the design and delivery of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships and works with national employers including British Telecom Group, NHS, and Siemens Plc. It was the first University represented on the board of the government’s Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network which is working to increase the number of apprenticeship starts by people from BAME backgrounds. The Digital Apprenticeships and Skills Hub will establish a national model for collaboration between higher education and employers.

Supportive quotes:
Stoke Central MP Gareth Snell said: “This is fantastic news for Stoke-on-Trent. It will give young people who might not normally consider or be able to afford to go to University access to state of the art digital technology. This will not only raise aspirations and achievement levels but will help tackle our region’s skills shortages.”

Dr Cathryn Hickey, Chief Executive of Stoke-on-Trent based AMRICC, said: “We are committed to working with Staffordshire University to deliver a new degree apprenticeship in materials science for a wide range of Staffordshire based employers including Caterpillar, Wade Ceramics, Steelite International, Bostik Ltd and Johnson Matthey, PLC. It is anticipated that, with the building of the new hub, Staffordshire University will deliver a significant number of these.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for education and economy Janine Bridges said: “This is fantastic news and will improve the offer for all young people who want to learn in our city. We take inclusive growth very seriously and this means assuring our learners have the best start in life, right the way through to the higher education offer. By linking the university experience with work and industry experience, it will give young people an advantage in entering the employment market. Encouraging greater participation for students from disadvantaged backgrounds means that the barriers for students to achieve their full potential come down.”

Staffordshire University Pro Vice-Chancellor (Partnerships and Region) Professor Ieuan Ellis added: “The hub will act as a modern gateway to students, businesses and employees and help us to realise our vision to be both a Connected and Digital University. It will provide employers and learners with opportunities to design new apprenticeships, undertake co-delivery and provide skills and support that enables us to attract and retain talent.”

Sarah Tudor, Director of Employer Partnerships at Staffordshire University said: “We’ve been driving the development and delivery of higher and degree apprenticeships for a number of years and this substantial investment sends a message to employers large and small that we are best placed to help them to upskill their workforce.” 

Contact

Maria Scrivens
Media Relations Manager
Marketing and Public Relations
L600, Flaxman Building
College Road
Stoke-on-Trent
ST4 2DE
t: +44 (0)1782 294375
m: 07766 520339
e: m.c.scrivens@staffs.ac.uk