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Skills gap opened for region’s thinkers

Skills gap opened for region’s thinkers

🕔05.Feb 2018

“Britain’s biggest challenge” is the need to increase the UK’s skill base, according to the Lunar Society which is staging a special event on the issue next Monday evening, reports Kevin Johnson

Even in the fog of Brexit, it’s difficult to argue that skills is the issue which gives policy makers, educationalists and employers the biggest headache.

The Lunar Society, which seeks to bring together the region’s leading practitioners to stimulate ideas and broaden debate, is promising an “innovative and energetic” debate to be chaired by Sir Michael Lyons, formerly chief executive of Birmingham City Council and chair of the BBC Trust.

The event is open to everyone and is free to attend, supported by international law firm Pinsent Mason and Birmingham Metropolitan College.

It will take place next Monday, 12th February from 6pm at the Matthew Boulton Campus of Birmingham Metropolitan College.

At last year’s Conservative Party Conference West Midlands Mayor Andy Street told party members that addressing the skills challenge was his priority.

Ahead of Mayoral election, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) had already established a Productivity and Skills Commission. In a first phase summary report, there was consensus about the mismatch between employer demand for skills and the skills available within the labour market, particularly in relation to higher level and technical skills.

Respondents also had concerns about fragmented careers advice, and young people’s lack of knowledge about the career pathways open to them, particularly in relation to vocational options.

Detailed studies of key sectors have now commenced, starting with the business, financial and professional services industries. Birmingham Metropolitan College, where The Lunar Society debate is being staged, already operates the Greater Birmingham Professional Services Academy which emerged from the BPS Birmingham Future Commission.

Diving deep into the professional sector to drive productivity

WMCA now has a director of skills and productivity in place, Julie Nugent, and is currently recruiting a head of skills delivery to work with colleges, adult and community learning and other training providers to take forward the region’s ambitions for skills and employment.

The Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper was published late last year. It included commitments to establish a technical education system that “rivals the best in the world;” additional investment in maths, digital and technical education and a new National Retraining Scheme that supports people to re-skill, beginning with a £64 million investment for digital and construction training.

Skills shortages are the biggest obstacle to economic growth in Birmingham, according to last year’s Birmingham Economic Review. 

Sir Michael Lyons is deputy chair of The Lunar Society which was founded by Birmingham’s greatest industrialists and today shapes the scientific, political and social agenda and aims to catalyse action. He said:

We are asking the question: “is there really a skills crisis and if so what more can we do to respond to it?”

We can all see the challenges ahead of us.

Whether we need to focus on the need to improve UK productivity, improve wages, prepare for a post-Brexit world, meet the challenge of the digital revolution, prepare for the impact of AI – or simply work out what training and education we need – we come back to the same issue.

We will be exploring whether Britain needs to rethink its approach to what many believe is one of the greatest inhibitors to our country’s growth.

We have pulled together an impressive panel for an innovative and energetic discussion but are also encouraging attendance by anyone with an interest in how we can improve skills training and meet the challenges of the present and future.

Holding the event at Birmingham Metropolitan College will also enable us to involve young people – including those who currently making their own decisions and whose future depends on a versatile and progressive economy.

More details and booking can be found here for the free event.

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