A REVIEW of further education in Yorkshire has identified rural isolation and a lack of public transport is holding back students and employers – particularly in the upper dales.

The Department for Education study of North Yorkshire, East Riding, Hull and York was part of a national review of all further education and sixth form colleges in England. The exercise is designed to ensure colleges are financially stable and able to meet the present and future needs of students and employers in each region.

The area review report involved colleges working with each other, the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), councils and representatives the Department for Education.

The report found that there are expected to be an increase of more than 33,000 jobs between now and 2031 in the Yorkshire region, with the largest increase predicted to be in low pay, low skilled jobs in the visitor economy, retail, warehousing and the care sector.

Sectors recognised as important in the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding local enterprise area included agriculture, food manufacturing, the visitor economy, health and social care, construction and energy.

The area also has a specialism and high employment growth in scientific research and development, particularly agri-foods, agri-technology, bio-science and bio-economy.

The report stated: “Increasingly the LEP’s focus will be on trying to create well-paid jobs in high value sectors and have a local workforce with the level of qualifications that can fill these jobs, thereby increasing wage levels across the area.”

But one of the main barriers to this aim is the rural nature of the county, with North Yorkshire particularly badly affected by a lack of transport.

The report stated: “rurality is seen as a barrier to accessing learning opportunities. This relates not only to travel to college issues, but delivery of apprenticeships in rural areas often comes up against transport issues for young people, especially when many of the opportunities are in the visitor economy where pay is low and hours “unsociable” and not matched to public transport provision.”

The report identified how there was a limited vocational training available in the upper Dales and Swaledale area and particularly a lack of higher level hospitality and tourism training.

It stated the use of outreach centres and peripatetic tutors had been suggested as a solution to reduce isolation of learners.

The report identified a number of key areas of change needed, including increasing the number of people with high-level skills and qualifications and addressing "rural access and inclusion issues ensuring that all learners have access to high quality learning environments and progression routes regardless of where they live.”

Further work will now take place between local authorities and the Local Enterprise Partnership to establish the extent that further education was affected by rural isolation and stated they would both invest in infrastructure and broadband and look at finding funding for an “access to skills” transport fund.

It said there “may be scope” to improve co-ordination of transport arrangements through local authority teams, though it was recognised that the “system was complex”.