Higher level skills can help boost the region’s economic recovery

It’s no secret that the West Midlands has been harder hit by the recession than any other UK region. Indeed economic growth has been slower than that of many other regions for a number of years. This reflects long standing structural problems which mean we have relatively few high growth businesses. As a result, economic recovery in the West Midlands is expected to be difficult and protracted. Although headline regional Gross Value Added (GVA) is expected to begin to rise this year, an upturn in employment is not expected until 2012 – and projections show that it could be well into the next decade before the region reaches the peak levels of employment seen in 2008.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. New research from the West Midlands Regional Observatory shows that, with the right support, the region’s private sector businesses could potentially boost the pace and strength of recovery. While still relatively small scale in employment terms, high value added businesses (in sectors such as high technology manufacturing, information and communications technologies, environmental technologies, digital media and medical technologies) are gaining a foothold in the region – notably in Coventry, Solihull, Telford and Warwickshire.

The Observatory’s 2009 Regional Skills Assessment reveals that investment in skills can play an important role in boosting business and wider economic performance – especially when combined with investment in enterprise and innovation. With access to the right skills, and by tapping into the considerable expertise in these new technologies available at many of the region’s universities and colleges, firms in these emerging sectors are in a position to exploit considerable business and market opportunities.

Rosie Paskins, Chief Executive of the Observatory said,

Our research shows that businesses need higher skilled workers to help them exploit new technology, adapt to new legislation [notably relating to low carbon and sustainability issues] and meet the demands of an ageing population.

There will be a growing need for higher level technical skills specific to sectors, industries and individual businesses. Across all sectors there will be a growing requirement for inter-personal skills such as the ability to communicate and work in teams, solve problems and deal effectively with customers.

Mike Beasley, Chair of the Regional Skills Partnership, said,

To move the West Midlands forward we need to improve both the productivity of existing firms and focus on attracting high growth, high value added businesses, industries and jobs.

We need to integrate our activity on skills, innovation and enterprise, and make better use of our major regional assets – our universities and colleges.

Find out more about the Regional Skills Assessment at http://bit.ly/5htbc3

______________________________________________________________________

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

- Photos available for re-use as follows:

- Video summaries available for re-use as follows:

- Based at Birmingham’s Millennium Point, the West Midlands Regional Observatory was established in 2002 to provide decision makers with high quality, independent information on the region

- The Observatory is the source of regional facts and figures, responsible for helping the West Midlands to develop better access to well organised information. Better evidence will lead to better policy, strategy and funding in the West Midlands, so that services and ultimately people’s lives are improved.

- The West Midlands Regional Observatory is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund

For further information please contact Oliver Nicholls at the Observatory on 0121 503 3313, 07525 703 137 or oliver.nicholls@wmro.org

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