Midlands must stop being shy and ‘blow its own trumpet’ in post-Brexit world
The Midlands must “blow its own trumpet” and sell itself to the rest of the world as a centre of advanced manufacturing and engineering if the economy is to see off the shock waves of Brexit, business leaders were warned today.
Sir John Peace, chair of the Midlands Engine partnership, said the region suffered from being neither the north nor the south and that “coming from the Midlands is tantamount to coming from nowhere”.
Speaking at Nottingham Trent University at the Midlands Engine Summit – a Government-backed amalgamation of more than 40 councils, 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships and 79 universities and further education colleges – Sir John said Brexit made it more important than ever for the Midlands to promote itself. He added:
We have a major role to play in our country’s economic future at a time of real uncertainty for our nation. There has never been a more important moment for our region to come together and
The Midlands has never gone in for branding. We don’t believe in blowing our own trumpet. To succeed in the 21st century we need a strong identity and brand in a rapidly changing world.
We have a tradition of enterprise and innovation. We have to harness that spirit.
— Cabinet Office (@GCSMidlands) July 4, 2016
Sir John warned the Midlands is facing a severe skills crisis which would have to be addressed in order to grow the economy. More than 70 per cent of manufacturers faced difficulties in recruiting skilled labour in the past five years and there are 25,000 vacancies as a result of skills shortages.
He urged businesses to look to China and the Far East for new investment, pointing out that German trade with China is currently seven times greater than UK trade with China.
It’s been confirmed that the Government will establish a Midlands Engine foreign investment hub in Birmingham in a bid to generate a £15 million boost for the region and create 1,400 jobs.
The hub will be based near Birmingham International Airport and will bring together local enterprise partnerships from across the Midlands, as well at UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). Its first trade mission to the US will take place in September and will be led by business secretary Sajid Javid in September 2016.
Business Minister Anna Soubry said:
Following the EU referendum result, I recognise there’s a level of uncertainty over what the future holds. But now’s the time to work together and support businesses to build partnerships that can help them grow.
Local economies are key to the success of UK growth, and this new government funding for the Midlands will help attract investment, encourage trade and create jobs. So let’s keep telling the rest of the world what we already know: that the Midlands Engine is a great place to do business, with excellent universities and local leaders committed to seeing the area thrive.
The hub will also manage a £2 million challenge fund, with eight successful bidders to be named over the course of the summit. The region’s tourism organisations will also receive information of a £40m Discover England fund to promote their towns and cities to visitors.
Mrs Soubry told the Midlands Engine Summit:
We are living through some of the most challenging and difficult days any of us have seen in our lifetime.
We must all come together and work to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in.
We need strong, confident leadership in government and in opposition as well.
It is absolutely imperative that Midlands Engine is leading for business.
She added that HS2 was “an incredibly important infrastructure investment” and the Government intended “to make real progress on this”.
Sir John Peace was speaking as it was announced that six universities have formed Midlands Enterprise Universities, a partnership designed to improve advanced manufacturing sector skills.
Birmingham City University, Coventry University, Nottingham Trent University, University of Derby, University of Lincoln and the University of Wolverhampton will combine their research, expertise and facilities in order to further increase growth and prosperity across the region.
The new partnership will provide the Midlands Engine with a powerful resource with which it can meet its ambitious objectives focusing on higher level skills gaps, talent pipeline needs and innovation requirements. Work will also concentrate on further developing the employability and entrepreneurship of students.
Nottingham Trent University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Edward Peck, said:
Midlands Enterprise Universities will play a crucial role in developing the talent, skills and innovation required by the Midlands Engine in order to drive growth and productivity improvement across the region and Nottingham Trent University is proud to be a part of it.
Midlands Enterprise Universities will focus on boosting the Health, Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, Transport Technologies, Creative Digital and Design and Agrifood and Drink industries – all priorities within the Midlands Engine region. Support will concentrate on:
- Improving skills through apprenticeships and work based learning alongside existing degree programmes.
- Providing a talent pipeline through work experience packages tailored to employer and student needs
- Delivering programmes of collaborative research and innovation support to address the development of new products, processes and services
- Providing commercial services support to address skills development needs and to tackle organisation issues.
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