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ESF Spells Success for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
A presentation outlining phase two of ESF (European Social Fund) Convergence investment which will be delivered via the Skills Funding Agency in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly until 2013 has been delivered to an audience that included representatives from Jobcentre Plus, the National Offender Management Service and Government Office for the South West. The Skills Funding Agency used the occasion, which took place at the Headland Hotel in Newquay, to underline how successful phase one had been and to set new targets.
A total of £153m was awarded to the region in 2007 to finance the SW Convergence Programme - the successor to Objective One.
That sum was intended to support two main priorities - £58m was earmarked for tackling barriers to employment targeting the most vulnerable and hard to reach individuals and £92m to improving the skills of the local workforce.
In the first three years of the six year plan, tens of thousands of young people and adults have taken advantage of the support - creating huge benefits to the local economy and people’s quality of life.
Carleen Kelemen, Director of The Convergence Partnership Office for Cornwall and the Isles Scilly, said: “These are interesting times. We all know we face a tsunami of changes in the public sector, but we also know that we are all here on an historic journey and we must continue regardless of the fear of seismic changes. We are here to leave a legacy for the long term.
“Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has been an exciting test bed for the rest of the country. In terms of growth in GDP, Cornwall’s has increased to equal that of London in 2005 - 2007. It’s all been about working together and we now need to have the courage, the boldness and integrity to continue this trend and continue working towards that common agenda of better jobs and a better future.”
Mark Williams, Head of Provider Accounts for the Skills Funding Agency, congratulated everyone on the success of this ESF Convergence investment, pointing out the high percentage of programmes which are on target.
In particular he mentioned the success of projects that improve the skills of lone parents, people with disabilities or health conditions and those designed to encourage, support and create opportunities for businesswomen. He also emphasised how important strong partnerships had been in securing this success, especially Cornwall Works with JobCentre Plus and the role of organisations such as the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Learning Partnership and Provider networks.
He encouraged delegates, who included partners and providers, to concentrate on workless adults aged 50 or over, ethnic minorities and on the broader challenge of supporting the 25,000 people targeted during phase two. Other key activities to be prioritised included carbon footprints and the environment, the digital economy, leadership and management, improved skills for individual workers, green apprenticeships and, potentially the biggest single activity - skills for businesses.
Summing up Mark said: “If we continue performing at this level and achieve our overall targets, by 2013 the funding will have reached 25% of Cornwall’s working population and that is far higher than anywhere else in the region.”
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European Social Fund (ESF)
The European Social Fund is investing in jobs and skills – especially for people at a disadvantage in the labour market. Between 2000 and 2006, the ESF helped over four million people in England. In 2007, the EU launched a new round of ESF programmes for the seven years to 2013. The new programme will invest £5 billion over seven years of which £2.5 billion will come from the ESF and £2.5 billion will be national funding.
Skills Funding Agency
The Skills Funding Agency funds and regulates adult further education skills in England. It is responsible for channelling funding swiftly, efficiently and securely to further education colleges and other providers, primarily in response to customer (employer and learner) choice on programmes such as Train to Gain. It will operate through customer focused services: National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), Employer Skills Services, Integrated Adult Careers Service, Learner Skills Services. The Skills Funding Agency is an agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.