Skills For Life – in Action


Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street recently visited Dudley College of Technology’s Skills Shop, located at the heart of Merry Hill Centre to talk with learners who are benefiting from training funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

Learners at the centre are studying a range of Sector-based Work Academy Programmes (SWAPs), which are designed alongside an employer who is looking to recruit employees from a pool of newly unemployed candidates. Sector-based Work Academy Programmes are designed to help improve the job prospects of learners and help employers fill vacancies where there is local demand. SWAPs are short, sharp programmes lasting up to 6 weeks and have three main components: pre-employment training, work experience placement and a guaranteed job interview.

Andy Street visits the Skills Shop
DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) Job Coach, Kirsty Brookes, Skills Shop learner: Beth Illidge, Mayor of the West Midlands; Andy Street and Skills Shop Manager: Ruth Trethewey.

SWAPs are currently receiving an injection of government funding, which is administered by the WMCA regionally, as the government seeks to help jobseekers who are claiming either Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), to build confidence, improve job prospects and enhance CVs whilst also helping businesses build a skilled workforce.

Commenting on the success of the SWAPs which are run from the centre, Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Dudley College, Neil Thomas said: “Our sector-based work academy programme (SWAPs) is an opportunity to learn new skills and get an experience of working in a particular industry.

Participants continue to receive benefits whilst taking part in a SWAP and receive support with covering the cost of public transport and childcare whilst studying. The best thing about them is that each SWAP is linked to one or more genuine job vacancy. Last year nearly half of the people completed SWAP programmes were then taken directly into employment, which is something we are really proud of”.

During his visit Andy met with Pauline Jones, Business Manager at the Department of Work and Pensions who works closely with the Skills Shop to refer people to the centre who will benefit from a skills boost. Learners such as   Beth Illidge, who has been recently unemployed and was attending the Skills Shop to find out about the pre-employment training she could benefit from and the hospitality SWAP which is supported by three local employers, McDonalds, KFC, and The Hop House who are working with the centre to recruit new employees.

Anyone wishing to join a SWAP or employers looking to fill vacancies should contact Black Country Skills Shop team on 01384 363790.