Colleges in West Yorkshire, including Bradford College, have successfully secured £6.9 million from the Department for Education to digitalize teaching and learning across key sectors.

The funding is a part of the Local Skills Improvement Fund (LSIF) and will initiate a digital innovation project in West Yorkshire led by colleges.

This initiative will assist colleges and their partners in enhancing their capacity to address local skills priorities outlined in the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP), launched by the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce in August.

Operating through a consortium, colleges and partners will collaborate to achieve maximum impact. They will work on developing both existing and new digitized training programs and curricula tailored for key industries.

Specialist hubs and academies will be established by the colleges, offering advanced curricula utilizing immersive and digital technology, as well as Artificial Intelligence.

The capital investment will cover the necessary equipment and resources for implementing virtual reality, augmented reality, Artificial Intelligence, and robotics. This will empower colleges to cultivate relevant and sought-after skills.

Project Director of the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges, Joanne Patrickson said; “This is a fantastic opportunity for the region to advance the skills needed in technology to keep up with industry changes. Not only will the funding of new equipment help to improve the learning experience in colleges, the collaboration between our partners will grow the skills and knowledge of the teaching staff who can deliver relevant training to the current and future workforce.”

The West Yorkshire colleges benefiting from this funding include Bradford College, Calderdale College, Kirklees College, Luminate Education Group (Leeds City College and Keighley College), Heart of Yorkshire Education Group, Shipley College, and Leeds College of Building.

Bradford College, for instance, has received funding for the development of new provisions and the use of digital technologies within construction, advanced manufacturing & engineering, and health & social care.

In construction, the investment aims to integrate digital skills into specific trades and professional areas, including property maintenance operatives. The project will introduce interactive and immersive skills in electrical, plastering, brick plumbing, and joinery using AR and VR.

The advanced manufacturing and engineering project will focus on developing new skills to support the rapid growth of the UK’s advanced manufacturing sector, emphasizing robotics, additive manufacturing, and advanced process manufacturing.

Funding for health & social care will enhance specialist Clinical Health and Social Care provisions, upskilling the existing workforce to adapt to the evolving use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and wearable technologies in traditional clinical and care disciplines.

Chris Webb, CEO & Principal of Bradford College, said; “Being awarded this funding is fantastic news for the community of Bradford and beyond and will help to transform lives across the region. By creating more cutting-edge facilities and enhancing exceptional provision we will help to boost digital talent and meet the local skill priority areas needed for a successful economy.”

Approximately 5,000 learners are expected to benefit from around 100 new courses during the project, with over 7,000 learners utilizing the new equipment purchased with LSIF capital funds. Furthermore, over 700 college staff will benefit from CPD activities.

The project is scheduled to run until March 2025 and aligns with the government’s efforts to transform skills training, enabling more people to secure good jobs within their local communities.