Under new ownership…

The Observatory has now transferred to Marketing Birmingham

Office: Marketing Birmingham, Floor 4, Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham, B4 7XG.

Enquiries

Telephone 0121 202 5115
Email research@marketingbirmingham.com

Register with Marketing Birmingham

Update on our future

Following announcement of its abolition, Advantage West Midlands is seeking new ownership for the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

Advantage West Midlands is currently negotiating with their preferred bidder, Marketing Birmingham, on the Observatory’s behalf. The Agency’s Board will make a final decision on the outcome of those negotiations later in the year and no later than 1st September 2011.

In the interim, the Observatory will pause its operations and all staff have been redeployed into closure and transition activities at Advantage West Midlands. As such, you may not receive a reply to emails and phone calls. The website and blog will also not be updated during this period.

What does preferred bidder mean?

That Marketing Birmingham have exclusive rights to negotiate with Advantage West Midlands regarding the assets of the Observatory. There is no commitment on either side to a sale or transfer in advance of those negotiations.

What happens to the Observatory at the moment?

As the Agency is now focused on its closure, the Observatory’s operations have been temporarily paused. As such, we are not able to respond to enquiries and the website will not be updated.

Who do I talk to about this?

From Advantage West Midlands
Pat Jackson, tel 0121 503 3205, email patjackson [at] advantagewm.co.uk

From Marketing Birmingham
Tim Manson, tel 0121 202 5031, email Tim.Manson [at] marketingbirmingham.com

The future of the Observatory

Following the announcement of its abolition, Advantage West Midlands is seeking new ownership for the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

Advantage West Midlands received two expressions of interest to an open bidding process, which closed on 19th November. Marketing Birmingham has been selected as the preferred bidder and Advantage West Midlands is currently negotiating with them. The Agency’s Board is expected to make a final decision on the outcome of those negotiations at its January meeting.

Being the preferred bidder means that Marketing Birmingham have exclusive rights to negotiate with Advantage West Midlands re the assets of the Observatory. There is no commitment on either side to a sale or transfer in advance of those negotiations.

As the Agency is now focused on its closure, the Observatory will continue to operate, but at a greatly reduced capacity. As such, responses to enquiries may take longer than normal and our website (www.wmro.org) will be updated less frequently.

For more info, contact:
From Advantage West Midlands – Iain Neville tel: 0121 380 3563, email: iainnev [at] gmail.com
From Marketing Birmingham – Tim Manson tel: 0121 202 5031, email: Tim.Manson [at] marketingbirmingham.com

Endorsement of our Economic Inclusion research

Here’s a short video featuring Trudi Elliott, Chair of the West Midlands Economic Inclusion Panel, endorsing our economic inclusion research:

Watch on viddler

New Fit for the Future articles published: what’s your vision of a low carbon future?

Fit for the Future: what's your vision of a low carbon future? Join in the debate.

We’ve launched a new website as part of our Fit for the Future project. Earlier this year we asked:

In your view, what would a successful low carbon economy look like and how should the West Midlands transform its economy to meet that vision?

The new website presents five articles given in response, written by contributors working in manufacturing, local government, education, public and voluntary sectors.

We want the articles to stimulate a debate so, this year, we decided to present the articles in an online commentable form. Please do visit the website, have a read and add your comments to the articles.

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Local impact of public sector job cuts featured on BBC Politics Show

Andy Phillips interviewed for BBC Politics Show

In advance of the government’s spending review announcement on Wednesday 20 October, the BBC Politics Show West Midlands discussed the impact of public sector job losses in the West Midlands.

They interviewed Andy Phillips, Head of Skills Research at the Observatory, and featured our recent briefing paper which examines the local impact of public sector job cuts (pdf, 351kb).

The story is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer for the next six days.

We’re moving…

From 22nd October, our offices will be based at:

3 Priestley Wharf,
Holt Street,
Birmingham,
B7 4BN.

Our new telephone number will be 0121 503 3333.

New direct lines for staff are listed on our website.

The website, this blog and email addresses will remain unchanged.

Oracle summer 2010 newsletter out now

Read our Oracle summer 2010 newsletter (pdf, 404kb)The summer edition of our Oracle newsletter (pdf, 404kb) is now available, rounding up our recent research.

Rosie Paskins, Chief Executive of the West Midlands Regional Observatory, introduces the newsletter with updates on how our research is being used and how we’re working hard to ensure local authorities, businesses and forthcoming Local Enterprise Partnerships can access and benefit from our research:

In what has been an interesting but rather unsettling few months for all those working in the public sector, the Observatory has continued to provide West Midlands decision makers with solid and reliable evidence on which they can base their decisions.

This summary of our work over the course of 2009-10 (pdf, 750kb) shows the many different ways in which Observatory research is being used.

Despite turbulence in local and regional government, the social and economic challenges facing the West Midlands remain. The Observatory continues to provide high quality research into the underlying causes of those challenges. In a recent survey of our users, partners told us that their satisfaction with the Observatory and its work is at a five year high, with nine out of ten users rating our research as independent and objective.

At present, we are working hard to ensure that local authorities, businesses and forthcoming Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are able to access our research and benefit from it. LEPs will almost certainly inherit new responsibilities around economic development, worklessness, skills and low carbon. The Observatory has a wealth of expertise in each of those areas, and we are used to working across local authority boundaries. So in a world of Local Enterprise Partnerships, we can provide important insight and an objective assessment of the facts, to help decision makers take tough policy decisions with confidence.

I hope you enjoy reading about our recent research. As ever, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Rosie Paskins
Chief Executive

Related links

Inward investment into the West Midlands 2009/10 – a local analysis

In 2009/10 there were 84 inward investment successes in the West Midlands and another four knowledge-based investments. These investments created over 1,500 new jobs and safeguarded another 4,300.

Although these 88 investments represented the lowest number of jobs created or safeguarded since 1992/93, they also represented the 7th highest total number of projects since 1991.

Pie chart shows 38 inward investments in West Midlands metropolitan areas and 49 inward investments in the shire counties over 2009 to 2010Inward investment is usually spread reasonably evenly between the West Midlands metropolitan areas and the shire counties. In 2009/10 the shire counties attracted the majority of inward investment projects (55%). See left.

However, the metropolitan areas of Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton have attracted perhaps just over half of the projects over the years – see below. The number of jobs created and safeguarded also generally follows a similar pattern.

Stacked bar chart shows percentage of inward investments into West Midlands metropolitan areas versus shire counties between 1991 and 2010

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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.

Continue reading

Research published on prospects for the West Midlands economy post recession

Report cover: The West Midlands economy post recessionAt the end of June, the Observatory published The West Midlands Economy Post Recession: Key Issues and Challenges (pdf, 844kb), a major piece of research exploring the changing needs of the region’s economy and labour market as it emerges from recession.

The research is informing the decisions of employers, individuals, providers and the skills system as they look to focus their investment in key areas to maximise impact.

Firstly, the research considers the region’s recent poor economic performance and the key factors that have contributed to this.

We detail the weaknesses within the region’s economic structure and, in particular, the dependence on public sector and lower value added private sector activities, in terms of GVA and jobs, and the limited representation of high value added, knowledge-based sectors.

We also highlight the low rates of productivity in many of the sectors that dominate the regional economy and assess the skill gaps and shortages businesses in the West Midlands face and the impact on productivity and performance.

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What’s your vision of a low carbon future?

Most people now agree that the future economy will need to be a low carbon one. But what would a low carbon economy look like? And how should the West Midlands transform its economy to get there?

If you have a view about these questions, we would like to hear from you.

Copies of our book called West Midlands: Fit for the Future?In 2009 the Observatory published a book called West Midlands: Fit for the Future? The aim of the book was to start a debate about the future of the West Midlands economy as it emerges from the recent recession.

We’re now looking to build upon one of the themes that emerged from the original book: opportunities for the West Midlands in a low carbon future.

In exploring the subject we’re inviting contributions from people with a variety of different perspectives on the issue. Whilst we’ve contacted some people directly, we’re also interested in receiving contributions from anyone who feels they have something interesting to say.

Our aim is to stimulate debate, promote discussion and influence policy on the future growth of the low carbon agenda in the West Midlands.

If you would like to contribute to our report, we’re looking for papers of no more than 2,500 words (and we welcome alternative ways of getting your ideas across), reflecting your own ideas in response to this question:

In your view, what would a successful low carbon economy look like and how should the West Midlands transform its economy to meet that vision?

Continue reading

Recession impacted unemployment numbers but long-term issues around worklessness remain

Cover of Economic inclusion annual report 2010New research from the Observatory shows the recession has led to nearly 100,000 more unemployed people in the West Midlands but long-term issues around worklessness remain.

The economic inclusion annual report 2010 (pdf, 929kb) identifies how worklessness issues in the West Midlands have changed as a result of the recession, and to what extent long-term issues remain.

In this report we particularly look at the impact of the recession on employment and worklessness in the West Midlands, and which groups of people have been most affected.

The report updates the economic inclusion baseline report (pdf, 2.3mb) published by the Observatory in March 2009, in which we examined long-term issues around worklessness in the West Midlands.

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