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Full house at the Warwickshire Skills Conference

More than 100 people from Warwickshire’s business and education communities got together this week at Warwickshire County Council’s (WCC’s) fourth Skills for Employment programme annual skills conference to discuss the skills challenges and opportunities facing the county, and how they can best be met in the fast changing working environment.

Following an introduction from Cllr Peter Butlin, Deputy Leader, WCC; Monica Fogarty, joint MD, WCC, and David Ayton-Hill, Economy & Skills Group Manager, WCC, gave delegates plenty of key data and information to consider about the county’s skills picture now, and in the future; as well as some potential challenges caused by Brexit. Some key facts about the county’s skills picture included:

• Warwickshire is the fastest growing economy in the country since the recession.
• 78.7% of working age population are in employment. 
• More than 1,000 young people aged 16-18 leave education every year and may be looking for work.
• 1 in 5 low wage jobs are filled by EU nationals, many of whom would not meet current visa entry requirements.
• 116,000 current jobs in Warwickshire are at high risk of being lost to automation in the future.
• Four key skills have been identified as being needed for the jobs of the future: 
communication; strategic; analytical; and innovative. 
• Nationally 65% of children entering primary school today will work in jobs that don’t yet exist. 
• WCC has allocated an additional £600,000 for the Skills for Employment programme 2018-20. This is a £2.4 million programme which helps businesses tackle skills shortages and enables young people to become work-ready. 


Pictured, Steve Stewart, Cllr Hayfield and Sarah Windrum

Delegates at the free breakfast conference, which took place at Stoneleigh Park on Wednesday 7 March, also heard an interesting overview of new initiatives and investment announced in the government’s latest Industrial Strategy, from Steve Steward, Chief Executive, Careers England. 

A short film montage featured 12 of the 36 skills related projects WCC has funded in schools, colleges and businesses around the county in the past three years. You can see the film here

Lively discussion took place, both round the tables, and at the Q&A session with the panel of experts from the worlds of business and education: Lee Gray, Headteacher, Studley High School; Neil Coker, Vice Principal, Warwickshire College Group; Lindsay Stewart, Chief Operating Officer, Stratford on Avon  College; Elaine Stock, Assistant Head, Avon Valley School and Sarah Windrum, CEO of the Emerald Group and Digital skills lead for Coventry & Warwickshire LEP. 

Cllr Colin Hayfield, County Council Portfolio Holder for Education and Learning, said: 
“This conference has been the biggest, liveliest and most positive of our skills conferences so far. So many ideas have emerged and we are keen to keep the momentum and keep the conversation going. We want to continue to work directly with business and education providers to address the region’s skills shortages, now and in the future to enable more young people to find sustainable employment. In the next two months, we will be consulting businesses and education providers on  priorities for spending for the additional £600,000 agreed recently for 2018/2020. 

Sarah Windrum, CEO of the Emerald Group and Digital skills lead for Coventry & Warwickshire LEP commented: “It was great to see a full-house at the Warwickshire Skills Conference as a testament to the commitment from our schools, colleges, and businesses working with the County Council on tackling our skills challenges. Our recent success increasing productivity across the region is a clear indicator of how well we are working together, but as always, there is lots more to do and there were many good ideas from the Conference to take forward. Thanks to all the team at WCC for their hard work on this agenda.”

Steve Stewart, Chief Executive, Careers England was delighted with the outcomes of the conference commenting: "It’s been a great event! We've had employers who want to recruit along with schools and training providers.  They're all agreed on what we have to do; get rid of the gap between what employers want and need desperately and what providers of learning offer."

Neil Coker, Group Vice Principal, Warwickshire College Group said: “This skills conference hosted by WCC gave us an excellent opportunity to further explore the challenges faced by the future skills needs in the area, and to consider how organisations such as Warwickshire College Group (WCG) can continue to work in close partnership with local and regional employers to ensure that young people and adults are equipped with the breadth and depth of skills necessary to enable them to gain and sustain jobs both now and in the future.  

He continued: “This was an excellent network event supported by detailed local and strategic contexts and WCG is pleased to be part of continuing positive conversations that will ensure we continue to provide the region with a well - trained and highly employable workforce.”