UK government and European Union sponsored funding worth £7.5m is about to kick-start an 18-month programme to improve information, communication and technology (ICT) in South Yorkshire.
The e-SY skills initiative will be used to develop new curriculum and training programmes. It will launch four centres in February dedicated to ICT skills in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.
The centres will deliver general or vendor-accredited certifications focused on areas including digital media, e-marketing, web services, networking and technical skills for producing everything from games to virtual reality environments.
Richard Smith, director of cluster development at the Learning and Skills Council, the co-ordinating body overseeing the project, said: "The decline of coal and steel [production] in the region resulted in the loss of 200,000 jobs at a conservative estimate.
"As its primary industry, this was a major cultural blow. At the same time, South Yorkshire has always been a design centre, but not large enough in size or scale to create a new skills base.
"[This funding] will help create a pool of world-class labour for the ICT and media industry."
Various funding bodies, IT companies and skills groups are involved in delivering what Smith hopes will have "a national impact" on the integration of ICT industry training into mainstream curricula.
One source of funding is the £1.8bn Objective 1 Programme for South Yorkshire which draws on £700m in EU structural funding to help regenerate the economies and employment opportunities of Europe's poorest areas.
"The EU funding has been awarded through Objective 1 because the gross domestic product of South Yorkshire was less than 75 per cent of the European average," said Smith.
Regional development agency Yorkshire Forward has matched Objective 1's investment in its capacity as the regional body responsible for regenerative economic issues.
Vendors including Microsoft, Apple, EA Games and Cisco will help by delivering proprietary certification courses directly, or facilitating ICT skills transfer by training the people who will deliver broader creative and digital courses.
Funding for the e-SY programme will be used to appoint training staff and purchase capital equipment like hardware and customised, bespoke and industry-standard software.
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