Closing The Skills Gap With A £3.9m ‘Leap Ahead’

Kedleston Road campus 504x257 Closing The Skills Gap With A £3.9m ‘Leap Ahead’

Date posted: 16 October 2007

A fresh approach to closing the ‘skills gap’ suffered by vital East Midlands industries will be launched officially this week.

Lack of demand from employers for staff training in higher level skills, and lower numbers of workers taking up higher education via traditional routes, have led to a regional shortfall in the number of workers qualified to National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level Four.

Leap Ahead, the Lifelong Learning Network for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire based at the University of Derby’s Kedleston Road site, has the task of boosting skills levels particularly in the construction, engineering, tourism, hospitality, and events and retail sectors in the East Midlands.

On Thursday October 18 Leap Ahead will officially launch its three year strategy - backed by £3.9m from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) - to develop vocational courses in partnership with employers to close the perceived skills gap within those industries.

Leap Ahead will work on developing course curriculums with educational institutions including:

Universities: Derby, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, and The Open University.

Further Education Colleges: Derby, Chesterfield, South East Derbyshire, West Notts, North Notts, South Notts, New College Nottingham, and Castle.

Courses will be aimed at those aged 19 and above who are already in work and looking to further their careers.

To make studying while working more flexible, students on the new courses will be able to learn online and could attend different partner colleges involved in the Leap Ahead network, whilst pursuing the same course, by logging on to their personal e-portfolio or body of work by computer.

The Leap Ahead launch will be held from 6pm to 8pm on Thursday in the Toyota Suite of Derby’s Pride Park Stadium, Pride Park.

Guest speakers at the event will be the Project Director of Leap Ahead Mike Braund; Tansi Harper, Regional Manager for HEFCE; Dr Mark Mabey, Regional Director for educational body Foundation Degree Forward in the East Midlands; and Gordon Lammie, Chairman of the Leap Ahead Strategic Management Board and Regional Director of The Open University in the East Midlands.

Mr Braund said: "Leap Ahead is an exciting opportunity to raise productivity and higher level skills for businesses across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. We are achieving this through a range of strategies to make Higher Education more accessible and more relevant to employers."

Leap Ahead advisors are currently talking to Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire employers about the type of courses they think need to be set up. The first students should begin their courses in September 2008.

With a total HEFCE investment of £3.9million, by 2009 the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Leap Ahead project aims to have:

  • attracted 2,000 additional higher education enrolments by vocational learners
  • involved 1,000 vocational course students in the ‘nationally significant’ e-portfolio trial (this strand of the project will be based at the University of Nottingham’s School of Education)
  • involved 1,200 employers in the higher education programme and handled 720 business referrrals
  • offered information, advice and guidance to 3,000 adults in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire
  • created a variety of new innovative accessible higher education programmes.


For further media information please contact Press and PR Officer Simon Butt on 01332 591891 or 07748 920023, or email

Press release written by Press and PR Officer Sean Kirby on 01332 593004.

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