West Midlands rural areas hit particularly hard by recession

Aerial shot of rural WorcestershireThe Observatory’s Skills Team are working on an assessment of skills and labour market issues in the rural areas of the West Midlands on behalf of the Regional Skills Partnership and the Rural Affairs Forum.

While we expect to publish in April 2009, we can report now on emerging findings relating to the impact of the recession.

Rural areas of the West Midlands have out-performed the rest of the region in recent years in terms of business growth, new business formation and employment growth.

However, there remains a significant dependence on lower value added sectors and industries such as agriculture, manufacturing industries such as food and drink, construction, hotels and catering, and transport.

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West Midlands Rural Affairs Forum Conference 2008

Man pinning information to a notice boardDelegates gathered at the Holiday Inn in Bromsgrove on 12th November 2008 for the fifth West Midlands Rural Affairs Forum conference.

The Observatory was asked to present at the event and talk about the State of the Region with particular reference to some of the key challenges likely to be faced by the region’s rural communities.

The main challenges facing the rural West Midlands are not new ones—ageing population and housing affordability in particular—nor are the rural parts of the region immune to the effects of the credit crunch but these challenges can often mask opportunities.

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State of the Countryside 2008 report released

The Commission for Rural Communities launched their tenth annual State of the Countryside report on 16th July 2008. The report assesses the way rural England has changed over the last ten years by considering the social, economic and environmental issues facing rural England.

The report is split into three chapters: living in the countryside, economic well-being, and land and environment.

Drawing out some of the implications for the region, an article on 24dash.com suggests that the report paints a challenging picture for the rural West Midlands.

Threat to rural industries highlighted by Lantra

Tom Scotney of the Birmingham Post has highlighted a report by Lantra, the environmental and land-based sector skills council, that warns how rural businesses are being threatened by a lack of migrant workers and fewer younger people moving into the rural sector.

Lantra warns that the rural economies of counties such as Herefordshire and Worcestershire have relied on migrant workers to fill jobs such as fruit picking, but that changing conditions in Europe mean that the region can no longer rely on migrant labour. This, coupled with an aging indigenous rural workforce, has led Lantra to embark on a campaign to encourage young people to consider a career in the rural sector.

Tom’s full article, Lack of migrant workers is real threat to rural industries, is available on the Birmingham Post website.