Closer ties between colleges and local business leaders are critical if we are to close the West Midlands skills gap and help youngsters fill the new jobs being created, a conference in Birmingham heard today (Friday April 20).
Dr Julie Nugent, the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) director of productivity and skills, told local businesses, college leaders and academics at the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL) symposium that businesses and further education providers had a key role to play in making sure the region’s economic growth benefitted all its communities.
The symposium, held at Matthew Boulton College, focussed on the importance of business and colleges working together to match local skills to local needs.
This is seen as crucial in light of the government’s devolution agenda with the introduction of regional elected Mayors and the transfer of the adult skills budget to the WMCA.
Dr Nugent said: “The West Midlands is experiencing strong growth in productivity and employment – but we need to ensure that this economic success is shared by all of our communities. Giving local people the skills that local businesses need is critical to this.
“The West Midlands is leading the way with strong collaboration taking place across the further education sector, seizing the opportunities that devolution offers. The region’s colleges are working together with businesses, universities and schools – to ensure we can deliver on current and future skills needs.”
Today’s event, chaired by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts (RSA), also heard from MP for Edgbaston, Preet Kaur Gill, who gave a keynote speech providing insight from a Westminster perspective.
Jonathan Shaw, chief executive at Policy Connect, said “Further education is essential for ensuring local talent stays in populations like the West Midlands, particularly in light of plans for devolution, the industrial strategy, and the Midlands Engine.
“But local and national government cannot lead this discussion alone, and today’s symposium was vital in the progression of thought around further education and the local skills gaps.”