We are working closing with the West Midlands Combined Authority on the implementation of the Skills Deal, which is designed to help tackle the skills and productivity gap in the region. This includes supporting them to maximise the opportunities of the Apprenticeship Levy; and to drive adult learning and retraining in digital skills via a pilot that will inform the National Retraining Scheme.
From the 2019/20 academic year, the adult education budget will be devolved to the West Midlands Combined Authority. Once devolved, the combined authority will decide how best to use this funding, to meet the needs of their residents and the local economy. The department has worked very closely with officials in the combined authority to support their preparations, and a strong relationship has been established. A Memorandum of Understanding between the department and the combined authority establishes a collaborative way of working at all levels to maximise the potential of adult education devolution.
We are also establishing Skills Advisory Panels, which bring together local employers and skills providers to pool knowledge on skills and labour market needs, and to work together to understand and address key local challenges. Both the West Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority and Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership were in the first phase of local areas, working with the department to develop the policy. The West Midlands Combined Authority has already held its inaugural meeting of its Skills Advisory Panel in November 2018. The department is working with all panels across England, including in the Midlands, to establish their Skills Advisory Panels by October 2019, in line with the guidance the department published in December 2018.
We are also supporting, alongside other government departments, the Midlands Engine’s Vision for Growth, which includes tackling the mismatch between business skills needs and the skill levels of residents in the region.
 Department for Education (DfE) (December 2018) Skills Advisory Panels: Guidance on the Role and Governance, available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/762629/Skills_Advisory_Panels-Guidance_on_the_Role_and_Governance.pdf and DfE (December 2018) Skills Advisory Panels Analytical Toolkit, avaialbe at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/skills-advisory-panels-analytical-toolkit.