The multiple risk factors of worklessness

By isolating the ‘risk factors’ and certain combinations of ‘risk factors’ associated with a person’s chance of being out of work, new analysis from the West Midlands Observatory can help decision makers get to grips with the complex interplay of issues behind the current high rate of worklessness across the West Midlands.

The research is already informing the Department for Work and Pensions in its review of welfare policy, as it provides insights into the major factors influencing a person’s chances of being in or out of work. It shows that these chances can vary greatly according to the individual’s background and personal characteristics. The research demonstrates how combinations of factors such as having no formal qualifications or a long-term health problem or disability, or being a lone parent, affect a person’s chance of being out of work.

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Observatory is regarded more highly than ever by customers

Customer satisfaction with the West Midlands Observatory is at its highest ever level according to a recent customer survey. Satisfaction with the Observatory has been rising year on year since 2006, and this year reached its highest ever score (3.19 on a scale of 1=low to 4=high).

Rosie Paskins, Chief Executive of the Observatory, said:

With current turbulence in local and regional governance, it is easy to lose sight of the role of evidence in overcoming the deep-seated problems and challenges faced by the West Midlands.

We are encouraged by this endorsement of our work by our customers, and I urge partners to realise the increased importance of evidence based decision-making in a time of increased budgetary pressure.

The Observatory will continue to provide authoritative and high quality research to help decision makers target limited resources and do more with less.

Other highlights of the survey included the highest ever ratings for the awareness and reputation of the Observatory. And over 93% of users said they regard the Observatory’s research to be independent and objective.

The high customer rating follows on from the Observatory being recognised as an “Excellent” organisation by independent assessors Investors in Excellence earlier in the year.

Jerry Blackett, Chief Executive of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said:

We are in desperate need of hard facts and a cool assessment of what the facts tell us. It is too tempting to manage by anecdote and the Observatory helps stop this. In a world of Local Enterprise Partnerships, we still need the Observatory output.

Read a summary of the Observatory’s work over 2009-10 (pdf, 750kb)

Up-skilling and diversification are key to growth and job creation across the West Midlands

Targeting investment on higher value added sectors such as digital media and medical technologies, and developing a workforce with the right skills to service those sectors would significantly increase job growth and the prosperity of the West Midlands according to new research.

The research (pdf, 498kb), undertaken by the West Midlands Observatory, shows that the potential benefits of targeting investment are substantial. If workforce skill levels in the West Midlands were increased to match the England average, growth in Gross Value Added (GVA) — the measure of economic output per head of population — over the next 5 years would increase by 2 percentage points from 10% to 12% and net new job creation would nearly double from 11,000 to 21,000. If in addition more businesses in higher value added sectors and clusters were attracted to the West Midlands, so that their share of economic activity reflected the position nationally, GVA would grow by some 23% by 2015 and more than 200,000 net new jobs would be created.

Local authorities, business groups and other key partners across the West Midlands are looking to achieve sustainable economic growth in jobs and GVA over the next 5 years. This new research shows how, in a time of austerity and funding cuts, the Observatory can provide authoritative and objective research to help decision makers target limited resources and do more with less.

The research (pdf, 498kb) provides an insight into the region’s existing and likely future skill needs. It has been produced to inform the development of skills and investment priorities that focus shrinking levels of public sector investment in areas that will maximise  impact.

A range of key investment locations across the region, including Longbridge and Eastside in Birmingham, Ansty Park in Coventry, i54 in Staffordshire, Coventry and Wolverhampton city centres and Dudley, Telford, Walsall and West Bromwich town centres, can play a key part in diversifying local economies.

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Recently published research by the Observatory: June 2010

In our website survey back in February, respondents asked for more posts about what the Observatory teams are working on and what research reports had been published. This is the first post listing recently published reports. If you prefer to receive immediate updates when new research is published, subscribe to our RSS and email updates.
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Observatory low carbon team update: June 2010

Black and white illustration representing an environmently friendly economyOpportunities for businesses in the low carbon economy have been the main focus of the team in recent weeks. We’ve also been producing our annual raft of monitoring work looking at all aspects of sustainable development and climate change.

Low carbon economy

Back in March, we published our report into the opportunites for growth into a low carbon economy in the West Midlands.

The research suggested that, in the West Midlands, sectors with prospects for growth into the low carbon economy include automotive & transport equipment, construction and public services amongst others.

The report highlights a number of potential low carbon opportunities. The manufacture of products for low carbon buildings is one, through providing insulation products, technical tiles and ceramics, and prefabricated building elements for construction.

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Cultural Observatory update: what we’re working on

Millennium Point in Birmnigham

This post is intended to give a run down of the main pieces of work that will be undertaken by the Cultural Observatory during 2010/11.

Our work plan is not set in stone as we are often called to respond to policy needs as and when they develop (in common with many public sector organisations), but hopefully this short post will give you a flavour of our aspirations for the coming year.

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Tweets, whistles and gold: an overview of the Cultural Research Conference 2010

The first Cultural Research & Intelligence Network (CRAIN) conference took place on 2nd June 2010 at Birmingham City University (School of Art) in central Birmingham.

The conference was well attended, attracting 41 delegates who between them represented 26 different organisations (including five local authorities and four local universities).

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