Developing a high growth knowledge economy in the West Midlands

Laboratory at Micropathology Ltd, Warwick Science ParkKnowledge intensive industries rely on innovation and knowledge to gain competitive advantage and, although the sector has grown rapidly in recent years, the West Midlands has struggled to attract these activities.

Through a state of the region dialogue on the West Midlands’ knowledge economy (pdf, 383kb), the Observatory has identified a range of actions to address this, developed and agreed by a range of policy makers, researchers and academics.

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Britain’s got (hidden) talent

Open advantage computer room in BirminghamNew reseach has shown that two-thirds of UK workers with specialist skills are not using them in their professional careers.

The Western European Location Skills Audit undertaken by Oxford Intelligence covered eight ‘hard-to-find’ skill sets in ten countries.

The research showed that the UK ranks first in the Location Skills Index and either first or second in Technical IT, Engineering, Financial Services and Food Technologies.

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Investment in higher level skills and the knowledge economy

The government’s University Challenge initiative aims to support investment in higher education at a local level in order to:

1: Support the development of a ‘knowledge economy’ by unlocking the talents of local people and providing the skills and knowledge transfer that enables local businesses to grow and to attract new investment to the area.

2: Make a real difference to the cultural life of our towns and cities.

Our review (PDF, 538KB) of the ‘market’ for higher education in the West Midlands, conducted at the request of Advantage West Midlands and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, highlights a range of key issues and barriers that any new investment needs to help to address.

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Regional Skills Assessment 2008: key issues for employers

We produce the Regional Skills Assessment each year, providing commentary on the changing labour market in the West Midlands to inform the work of a wide range of organisations. This post highlights key issues for employers arising from our skills assessment work this year.

Over the last five years there has been a significant shift in the balance of employment from manufacturing to services:

  • There has been significant new job creation in private sector services such as business & professional services, retail, hotels & catering and in public sector services such as health & social care, education and public administration. Continue reading

State of the Region dialogue on the knowledge economy

The new state of the region process aims to engage with the region’s policy and decision makers on a range of key issues.

One of these is the knowledge economy. While UK demand for higher level skills is mediocre by international standards (with 28% of the working age population qualified to level 4 or above the UK was 11th of the 30 OECD countries in 2006), this is even weaker in the West Midlands. Less than 24% of those working in private sector industries in the West Midlands region had higher level skills and qualifications, well below the England average of 28%.

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