Councillors call for more job training opportunities to be based in South Tyneside

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Councillors have criticised their own officials for failing to provide more job training opportunities in the South Tyneside area.

The criticism followed a presentation by South Tyneside’s Skill Service yesterday of a plan to get people into training and apprenticeships in key economic fields.

But many of the training courses are outside the borough and members of South Tyneside Council’s People Select Committee say people can’t afford to travel to take up the training.

South Tyneside council say about 60% of courses are provided in the borough and some clients qualify for travel bursaries.

The services offers a range from apprenticeships and study programmes for unemployed people aged 16 to 19, adult skills programmes and community learning.
These services are delivered by around 25 to 30  providers - colleges and  training providers -  with around 5,000 learner enrolments each year.

As of March,  28 subcontractors were signed up to the scheme - many  based in  Sunderland,  North Tyneside and Gateshead.

Coun Jim Foreman said that travel costs would hit people on Universal Credit and the “most deprived” - the very people the scheme is supposed to help.

He also asked if learners would be reimbursed for travel expenses and said “if you’re not, you’re fighting a losing battle”.

Coun Geraldine Kilgour said she was concerned about the level of training opportunities outside the borough and that more providers should be based in the area.

The council’s corporate lead for economic strategy and skills, Sarah McMillan, said the council “encouraged” training providers to be based in the borough.

She added a local base is “appropriate for some provision but not for others”, such as industrial work, and that the plan aims to “prepare people for going to the wider economy”.

Coun John Anglin, lead member for regeneration and economy, said: “We encourage as much learning provision as possible to occur in the borough to support residents in accessing courses.

“More than 60 per cent of our providers deliver in the borough.

“Some of the courses offered involve the use of specialist, technical equipment which cannot be moved so people may have to travel short distances outside of the borough to access this.

“Bursaries are available for particular groups of learners, such as 16-19 year olds and those on low incomes, to help meet costs associated with learning, such as travel costs.”

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service