October 2023

University College Birmingham Hosts Skills Gap Board Launch

By Carrie Mok

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More than 60 high-profile business leaders and industry professionals from across the Midlands have joined together to help shape policy, combine research and bring fresh ideas to address the region’s skills gap.

On Thursday 19th October, Centre for the New Midlands (CNM) - a not-for-profit think tank – officially launched the ‘People and Skills Workstream’ which brought together business leaders, regional leaders and policymakers, and prominent academics to discuss how best to address the region’s skills shortages.

Following the launch of the West Midlands Plan for Growth by the West Midlands Combined authority last year, where key areas for economic growth were highlighted, the priority skills needed to support that growth will form the heart of this new workstream’s focus. Utilising industry expertise and new research around the skills agenda, the workstream aims to support policy makers across the region to deliver enhanced public policies and, as a consequence, better outcomes for the West Midlands region.

Chaired by Megan Cooper, Principal Business Development Lead at Serco, the workstream will bring together key representatives from across sectors and the region as a representative Leadership Board. The board will consider the impact of greater devolution and the opportunity this creates to tackle issues such as social mobility, creating a talent pipeline aligned to emerging needs and support for all workers in adapting to the changing nature of work and the regional economy.

The launch, sponsored by Serco, took place at University College Birmingham and delegates enjoyed a three-course meal at the University’s world-class training restaurant whilst discussing key themes that will become areas of focus for the board.

José Lopes, Pro Vice-Chancellor (External Affairs), from University College Birmingham said: “We were delighted to host the launch of this important board. Being at the forefront of offering skills-focused training and education in our region makes us well placed to lead in these discussions and emphasise the importance of working with universities and colleges to address regional skills gaps.”

Delegates in attendance included leaders of local businesses such as Balfour Beatty and Mott MacDonald, as well as the Department of Education and West Midlands Combined Authority’s Productivity and Skills Officers.

Richard Parker, Labour Party candidate for West Midlands Mayor and The Rt Hon Anne Milton, Former Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, were guest speakers at the event providing their expert views on the skills agenda at both a regional and national level.

Richard said: "There are things we need to do differently. We need to collaborate, and bring businesses and key regional education partners together with the combined authority. We need to jointly agree what the ambition and the mission is for the West Midlands. We need to advocate as a region, for our region."

Anne said: "We need to change the way we talk about skills, it needs to be about training, jobs and lifelong opportunity. As a country we must do much much more and do it better. The challenge for the Centre for the New Midlands is to make something happen, to close the gap between people and the skills that businesses need. The launch of this board is a fundamental and important first step in achieving what many have failed to do; to give everybody, wherever they live or whatever their background, the opportunity to have a fair chance in getting the skills they need.”

In pictures: People and Skills Workstream Launch


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