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West Midlands skills commission revs up as Aston Martin boss takes charge

West Midlands skills commission revs up as Aston Martin boss takes charge

🕔20.Jul 2016

Aston Martin chief executive Dr Andy Palmer is to chair a new body set up to investigate ways of closing the productivity and skills gap between the West Midlands and the rest of Europe.

In what will be seen as a big vote of confidence from the business community for devolution, Dr Palmer accepted an invitation to head up the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Productivity and Skills Commission.

The commission will look at how WMCA and the metro mayor, to be elected next year, can meet ambitious growth targets and “transform the lives of those working in the region” by making the local economy more productive and its workforce more skilled.

Dr Palmer admitted there were longstanding problems with the West Midlands economy:

The region has a glorious history of innovation and productivity.  Even now it is home to some of the most prestigious automotive manufacturers. However, it is clear we are falling behind our competitors.

As a proud Midlander I could not refuse the opportunity to help the region realise its ambitions. Coming from the automotive sector I know there is no one factor behind the recent decline in the region’s productivity.

However, with increased investment in public infrastructure and a renewed focus on skills and innovation through the WMCA, I am confident that together we can make a difference to the region’s fortunes over the coming years.

Councillor Bob Sleigh, Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority, said:

We are extremely privileged to get such a respected industrialist to help us focus our efforts at increasing our productivity and improving the skill of our workforce.  I welcome Andy to his new role and look forward to working with him.

The commission will be calling for evidence to establish the true extent of the productivity and skills challenge in our region. Only when we understand the causes of the productivity and skills challenge can we make the changes we need.

The recent skills workshop at Aston University was the first step in deciding on the key lines of enquiry for the Commission to ensure there is a focused approached to making the West Midlands nationally and internationally competitive.

 Jonathan Browning, Chair of the Coventry & Warwickshire LEP, said:

This is a real opportunity for the West Midlands region to raise skills levels, make a significant contribution to raising productivity nationally, deliver more jobs in the area  and take a big step towards reclaiming the title of  ‘manufacturing workshop of the world.’

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