new £40 million Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College in central Birmingham has been praised as “breathtaking” by the Minister for the West Midlands.
Visiting the college’s new campus, due to open in September, Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill) said the development would play a key role in the region’s “long and difficult journey” to improve its skills base.
The Minister also launched a Government consultation on the legislative programme due to be set out in the Queen’s Speech in November. This includes the Education and Skills Bill, which will give workers the right to take time off to train, as well as a range of measures including Bills to help first time buyers and cut the number of people in incapacity benefit.
The 150,000 square foot campus, at Haden Circus, Highgate, Birmingham will open to its 1,300 full-time students in September 2008 and includes sports and learning facilities for community use.
Mr Byrne said: “I have launched the consultation for the region on the Government’s draft legislative programme. There are a lot of measures in there about improving skills, such as allowing workers time off to train and creating more apprenticeships. I will be talking to the CBI and the Chambers of Commerce in Birmingham and the West Midlands about whether these measures are right.
“But we also have to have world-class training centres, and this is why I went to Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College, which is a £40 million beacon of excellence. It was frankly breathtaking. The Principal has created an oasis of calm in the middle of the city. It will encourage pupils and parents to broaden their horizons. The wider point is that the money going into Joseph Chamberlain College is a part of £1.5 billion to be spent between now and 2012 on 130 different projects.”
He said West Midlands businesses were leading the way in taking advantage of initiatives to try to improve skills. The Government’s “skills pledge” had been signed by 578 firms in the region, representing a workforce of 80,315, more than in any other part of the country, he said.
The pledge commits employers to helping staff achieve a level 2 qualification, such as a BTEC, NVQ, GNVQ or A-level.
Mr Bryne warned: “We must be clear – we are at the beginning of a long and difficult journey. We have our road map - three months ago, I unveiled the first Skills Action Plan for the West Midlands, which set out ambitious targets to raise the number of businesses offering apprenticeships by more than 50 per cent coupled with new measures to tackle low literacy and numeracy skills among nearly half a million of the region’s adults.”