Collaborative leadership vital to drive our region forward

West Midlands Combined Authority

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2018 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. This involves 20 free events, workshops and training sessions along with thought leadership blog content such as this. Thanks to our Official Partner and Sponsors – The West Midlands Combined Authority, Aston

University, South and City College Birmingham and Curium Solutions - all events are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more here.

The West Midlands Combined Authority is comprised of 18 local authorities and four local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) working with an elected mayor, and united behind a shared vision to deliver strong and inclusive economic growth.

In driving forward this vision, the Combined Authority is committed to a new form of collaborative leadership – one which seeks to deliver more for residents and businesses, by moving powers away from Whitehall to the West Midlands, to those who know this this region best.

One of the first tasks of the Combined Authority was to create a Productivity and Skills Commission, led by Dr Andy Palmer, chief executive and president of Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd, which has brought together a powerful collective of business leaders, productivity experts and senior academics.

The Commission has been tasked with identifying the reasons for the West Midland’s productivity gap and, critically, recommending the solutions that will help us to narrow and, ultimately, close this gap.

In doing so, the Commission recognises that addressing the region’s productivity and skills challenges requires a new collaboration: between industry and academia, private and public sector, national and local government.

Similarly, it requires an understanding that improving productivity is not just about helping businesses to prosper and grow – important as that is – it is also about making sure that all citizens have the access and opportunity to share in that success.

We need to work harder and smarter to engage those communities and neighbourhoods that have simply been left behind.

The Combined Authority has a number of levers which it will use to underpin this work. These include:

• Oversight of the region’s Adult Education Budget.
• New programmes to help more people get the training and support they need to enter and progress within employment.
• Additional investment in training to help those who are most disadvantaged to get good jobs.

However, the real opportunity lies in the Combined Authority’s ability to act as a catalyst for stronger, more effective collaborations where we, in the region, can design and deliver the employment and skills solutions that will enable us to deliver strong and inclusive economic growth.

We have the opportunity to build on the strengths and expertise of our local authorities and LEPs; to join up activity on transport, housing, employment and skills; and to lead a shared focus on inclusive economic growth.

The Commission has deliberately taken a sectoral approach to understanding productivity and skills needs – and we are building on that to broker new and demanding relationships between employers, FE colleges, training providers and universities.

What is clear is that addressing skills needs is a joint leadership endeavour. We need our business leaders to invest time in developing strategic solutions to sourcing and developing workforce talent.

And we need our skills providers to listen and respond – working with employers to develop the skills that they need. The Combined Authority has the opportunity to help the skills system work more effectively – be that through more targeted investment, more joined up and sector-based planning, or by lobbying government for more freedom and flexibilities.

Already we have seen our region’s colleges and universities come together in powerful new collectives that are better placed to understand, and respond to, the skills needs of today – and the future. Through greater strategic planning, we can create a powerful network of specialist technical training responding to both employer and individual needs.

The West Midlands is rightly proud of its industrial heritage. We have much to celebrate in the skills of our workforce, the diversity of our population, and the expertise and innovation in our universities and colleges.

We have a big ambition for the future: locating the fourth industrial revolution in the West Midlands – the place where it all began. We are committed to supporting the region’s industries and developing the skills and talent needed now and in the future. From developments in connected, autonomous vehicles, to new building technologies, more digital start-ups and a thriving financial and business services sector.

And we are passionate about leading growth that connects to our residents – giving all of our communities the opportunity to contribute to this future.

Dr Julie Nugent
Director of Productivity and Skills
West Midlands Combined Authority