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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Only modest economic growth is forecast for the West Midlands over the next 5 years

A continuing under–representation of higher value added sectors means that the pace of economic growth in the West Midlands over the next five years is forecast to be modest.

Gross Value Added (GVA)

The Observatory’s new report The West Midlands economy post recession: key issues and challenges (pdf, 844kb) forecasts GVA to grow by just 11% (£9 billion) between 2010–2015. This compares with growth of 15% (£11 billion) between 2000–2007.

While the pace of growth is forecast to be strongest in higher value added private sector activities (such as ICT & telecoms and high value added business & professional services), they account for only a limited share of GVA. Growth is expected to be much weaker in sectors that dominate the regional economy such as lower value added, traditional private sector activities and the public sector.

Geographically, GVA is forecast to grow most strongly (by some 13% between 2010–2015) in areas identified as those with potential to lead the region’s recovery such as Solihull, Warwick and Stratford-on-Avon.

The weakest growth (less than 9% over the period) is expected in areas identified as having long-term issues that may inhibit recovery such as Wolverhampton, Walsall, Stoke-on-Trent and Sandwell.

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Recovery from the recession remains fragile in the West Midlands

According to recent research by the Observatory, recovery from the recession has been fragile. After rising in the second half of 2009, recruitment activity faltered in the early months of 2010.

Geographically, the areas expected to experience the most fragile economic recovery in terms of growth in GVA and jobs are traditional industrial areas, such as the Black Country and Stoke-on-Trent. These areas have historically been dependent on industries such as engineering, manufacturing and construction.

Recovery is expected to be strongest in areas clustered in the south and east of the West Midlands, in Solihull and Warwickshire. These areas benefit from a strong presence of high value added knowledge-based industries,  good communication links and environmental quality.

The pace of economic growth in the West Midlands over the next five years (2010–2015) is forecast to be modest. GVA is forecast to grow by 11% (£9 billion) over the period. This compares with growth of 15% (£11 billion) between 2000–2007.

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Weaknesses in the West Midlands economy act as a drag on future prospects

There’s a need to drive sustainable economic growth in the West Midlands, which in turn can foster the investment and business success that will create job growth. This requires giving priority to growth sectors and the development of a world class skills base.

However, the Observatory’s new report, The West Midlands economy post recession: key issues and challenges (pdf, 844kb), highlights continuing under representation of higher value added sectors.

Lower value added private sector activities such as low value business services, wholesale and retail, hotels and catering, and cultural, recreational and sporting activities make a particularly significant contribution to the regional economy. These account for more than half of GVA and employment.

Share of employment in the West Midlands by broad sector in 2008

Share of employment in the West Midlands by broad sector in 2008

Source: Office for National Statistics Annual Business Enquiry
Share this chart | Data on Google Docs

Traditional private sector industries such as engineering and transport technologies, other manufacturing activities such as the interiors and lifestyle, and food and drink clusters, construction and building technologies also make a significant contribution. So do public sector activities such as public administration, education, and health and social care.

These sectors are an important source of jobs for people with fewer skills and can play a key role in reducing worklessness and economic and social deprivation.

But reducing the dependence of the West Midlands economy on these activities and attracting and developing more businesses in higher value added sectors such as higher value added business & professional services, environmental technologies, digital media and medical technologies is key to improving the West Midlands’ economic performance and generating more new highly skilled jobs.

However, to date, these sectors have generated only limited levels of GVA and employment.

As a result, the private sector in the West Midlands has grown relatively slowly in recent years. Between 1998–2008 employment increased by just 30,000 (growth of 2% which compares to an increase of 19% across the UK as a whole).

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Metropolitan West Midlands remains the UK’s poorest sub-region in latest gross disposable household income estimates

Office for National StatisticsThe 2008 Regional Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI) (pdf, 113kb) estimates are released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Indexed GDHI per head (where UK=100) for the West Midlands in 2008 was 90, stable in comparison to the revised 2007 index value of 90.

GDHI per head in the West Midlands rose from £12,800 in 2007 to £13,300 in 2008, an increase of 3.8 per cent, in line with the increase seen in England and the UK.

Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI) per head is preferred to Gross Value Added (GVA) per head as a measure of economic welfare.

In the 2008 data, the West Midlands in regards to GDHI per head was ranked seventh amongst the nine English regions. London is the strongest performer at £19,000 and the North East is the least strong at £12,500.

In total, regional GDHI for the West Midlands region in 2008 was £72.2bn, an increase of £3.0bn on the revised figures for 2007.

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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.

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Regional gross value added (GVA) estimates for 2008 indicate the West Midlands produced below average growth

Office for National StatisticsThe 2008 Regional and 2007 Sub-Regional Gross Value Added (GVA) data (PDF, 143kb) are released today by the Office for National Statistics.

Indexed GVA per head (where UK=100) for the West Midlands in 2008 was 85.1, a marginal decrease from the revised 2007 index value of 85.4.

GVA per head in the West Midlands rose from £17,000 in 2007 to £17,500 in 2008, an increase of 2.5% compared to a 2.9% increase in GVA per head across the UK, and a 2.7% increase in England.

In the latest data for 2008 the West Midlands GVA per head is ranked seventh amongst the nine English regions. London is the strongest performer at £34,800 and the North East is the least strong at £15,900.

In total, regional GVA for the West Midlands in 2008 was £94.5bn, an increase of £2.8bn on the revised figures for 2007.

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