Economy and Labour Force newsletter: April 2010 issue

Economy and labour force newsletter

We sent out a new issue of our Economy and Labour Force newsletter today.

The newsletter summarises recent articles, new research and commentary related to the economy, skills, employment and labour market in the West Midlands.

You can view the newsletter in your browser or in pdf.

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New plan to harness £16 billion public spending for local benefit

A new plan that could help local people benefit from £16 billion of government spending in the West Midlands was launched by Regional Minister, Ian Austin, this week.

And he said government spending would be used to boost employment for people in the West Midlands and help access “local jobs for local people.”

The new West Midlands Procurement Framework for jobs and skills has been developed by the West Midlands Economic Inclusion Panel. This brings leaders from across the public, private and third sectors together to find ways to tackle the £3bn output gap ascribed to worklessness in the West Midlands.

Set up in 2008 to address the region’s worklessness challenge, the Economic Inclusion Panel  has focussed on developing a strategic approach to public procurement as a key driver in tackling worklessness. The Observatory’s economic inclusion team works closely with the Panel to provide evidence of the challenges facing the region.

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Making the skills links for Environmental Technology

There has been a fair bit of media interest in the Environmental Technology sector over the past couple of weeks, particularly from the BBC and Radio WM. This was stimulated by our recent Review of Skills in Environmental Technologies (pdf, 476kb).

In the main, the interest has concentrated around how the sector has faired better than wider manufacturing through the recession, and the huge potential for future growth – for example in renewable energy and recycling.

This is good news for the West Midlands, as the industry has the potential to create jobs for Midlanders long in to the future.

But, to capitalise on the sector’s potential, our research (pdf, 476kb) shows that businesses need to be able to access the right people with the right skills; in some cases, very specific skills that are up to date with the latest technology.

We found that Environmental Technology companies are finding it difficult to find people with the right skills, and the report (pdf, 476kb) makes some recommendations on how to overcome the barriers.

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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 Skills Assessment published

The Regional Skills Assessment for 2009 is now available. This extensive research gives an overview of the changing needs of the West Midlands’ labour market, along with a detailed exploration of key issues by sector, by sub-region and for key groups.

This year’s main report presents a few distinctive sections compared to previous years. It mainly focuses on recent trends, looking also at the impact of recession and prospects for recovery.

The main report is complemented by two reports identifying the main skills needs and issues in each of the region’s key sectors and clusters.

The Assessment also includes a series of six detailed sub-​regional skills profiles assessing recent trends and future prospects for both the demand for and supply of skills. The profiles highlight key issues to support, in particular, development of Local Economic Assessments by local authorities, the commissioning of 16-​19 learning provision and the work of sub-​regional Employment and Skills Boards. The sub-regional assessments cover:

  • Birmingham and Solihull
  • Black Country
  • Coventry and Warwickshire
  • Herefordshire and Worcestershire
  • Shropshire
  • Staffordshire

In addition, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to future prospects in the region’s labour market with forecasts covering both short-​medium term (2009 to 2014) and long term (to 2024), using the Observatory’s economic forecasting model.

View the Regional Skills Assessment 2009 pages on wmro.org

Key contact: Andy Phillips, Head of Skills Research

2009 Skills Assessment and regional skills policy

The productivity gap in the West Midlands regional economy appears to be widening, despite a narrowing skills gap.

This was one of the key issues arising at a dissemination event for the Observatory’s Regional Skills Assessment held last Friday at the Observatory.

A range of attendees, including higher education representatives and policy officers from organisations including Advantage West Midlands, Sector Skills Councils, the City Region Partnership and Jobcentre Plus, discussed the implications of the Regional Skills Assessment on policy in the West Midlands.

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Environmental technologies skills in the West Midlands seminar roundup

Two workers install solar panels on a red roof

The Observatory held an event on 20th January 2010 to present findings from their environmental technologies skills review, which determined:

  • The relative importance of these industries to the regional economy and the profile of the workforce by gender, ethnicity, age and qualification attainment
  • Key developments in the sector, potential market opportunities and drivers of skills change
  • Current and potential labour and skill needs and any gaps and shortages
  • Investment in training and up-skilling by employers
  • The use of publicly funded, private sector and internally run training and any gaps or weaknesses in provision
  • Recommendations and actions to address any issues identified

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