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College to pilot regional Strategic Development Fund project

Strategic Development Fund Virtual Reality Telford College

An education consortium led by Telford College has been selected to run a region-wide project to boost skills – with a specific focus on the health and care sector.

The college today learned it had been successful in its bid for Strategic Development Fund cash to lead the Government-backed scheme across the Marches region.

Telford College headed up a joint bid, which also includes Shrewsbury Colleges Group, Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College, and SBC Training.

Janet Stephens, deputy principal at Telford College, said: “This is fabulous news, and could make a real difference to the health and social care sector at a time when it is most needed.

“The sector accounts for more than 8% of the GDP of the area’s economy – which is higher than the national average – and supports more than 40,000 jobs.

“But the number of vacancies has been steadily rising, both before and during the pandemic, creating an urgent need to boost skills, and raise awareness of the type of career opportunities on offer.

“We want to be ambitious and use the pilot to test out the new ways of working and take the opportunity to invest in specific capital equipment to support NHS teams who are under considerable strain.”

Talks will now be held with the Department for Education to discover more about the value of funds secured for the pilot, and discuss targets and objectives. All funding must be used by March 2022.

Telford College already has a health-focused Employer Hub, working closely with hospital trusts.

It hopes the pilot will enable the hub to bring in other providers within the area and lead to a more joined-up approach, with a single point of contact for employers to address their skills priorities.

Janet said: “Recruitment, retention and demands for greater digitalisation are the key issues being raised.

“In many cases, retention rates are very low due to a lack of awareness about the kind of roles in the sector, resulting in additional costs and use of agency staff.

“We want to take advantage of technology-led learning, including virtual and augmented reality, fast-track more staff into the sector, and upskill others.”

The Government says the aim of the pilots is to ‘begin building the local collaborations that will create a stronger and more efficient overall delivery infrastructure and support a more co-ordinated offer across the local area’.

James Staniforth, principal and chief executive of Shrewsbury Colleges Group, said: “We’re delighted that the Marches partnership has been successful in securing this funding to drive strategic curriculum collaboration in our Local Enterprise Partnership area.”