It is all too easy to be depressed by a stream of bad news stories, so the Industrial Strategy published by the combined councils in our region is something to cheer us up.
The West Midlands region stands out in the UK, as productivity over the last year increased at twice the rate of the rest of the Country and our output is up over 27 per cent over the past five years – a good growth for our £99bn economy. According to the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), we have the youngest population outside of Europe.
We attract a diverse population, which gives us strong international connections. We have long been a forerunner in creative and technological development. All of which makes us a globally competitive force to be reckoned with.
The potential for the area is huge, backed by real investment over the next decade overseen by the WMCA. This includes 215,000 new homes by 2031, £69million to support development of new skills, the choice of the region to be the first area to have 5G in the UK, nine new suburban rail stations, £15billion investment in energy infrastructure to 2030, among many other things.
In 2022, we will see the Commonwealth Games bringing the eyes of the world to Birmingham, and there are huge investments underway in improving transport, accommodation and sporting facilities in the area. It is a renaissance that the West Midlands Mayor and WMCA are keen to ensure includes as many people as possible – ‘inclusive growth’. This includes looking at ways to provide both mental and physical health support and equipping people with the skills and capability to make the most of opportunities.
The government is helping too, and I fully back the drive to support apprenticeships. The Learners and Apprentices Survey 2018 shows that 90 per cent of apprentices will get a job or go into further training, with 72 per cent finding sustained employment, so it is a valuable investment in money and time.
On a final note, we have to recognise that much of this is dependent on a good Brexit, and that a no-deal Brexit might have huge implications for the West Midland’s continuing success. I am doing all I can to ensure an orderly Brexit.
Dame Caroline Spelman MP