Black Country business leaders are calling on the Government to support their fight against a skills shortage which, they claim, is threatening the future of the local economy.
Black Country Chamber is to host a meeting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton at which business executives will challenge Ministers about the problem.
The meeting on Monday , called Regeneration, Skills and Infrastructure - What Will The Black Country Look Like in 2035, will be chaired by Stewart Towe, chairman of both the Black Country Consortium and the Chamber of Commerce.
Panellists will include Trade Minister and MP for Dudley South Ian Pearson, Ulster Secretary Peter Hain, Skills Minister Bill Rammell, Ben Reid, chief executive of West Midlands Co-Op, and Andrew Messenger, chief executive of West Bromwich Building Society. Other senior politicians and leading academic figures have been invited. A strong delegation of Chamber members led by president John Tew will be at the conference to make sure the ruling party knows about the issues facing the area and that the voice of business is heard.
The fringe meeting will be staged in conjunction with the Black Country Consortium, which is drawing up a 30-year blueprint for the regeneration of the area.
Chamber chief executive Ian Brough said: "Unless we address the skills crisis now we will face serious difficulties in the future.
"The Black Country is finding it difficult to attract and retain high calibre young workers. We need a strong partnership between the public, private and voluntary sectors to make sure we educate and train our young people to fill the high quality jobs that will emerge in the years ahead. By taking these concerns directly to the Labour conference, we can make sure our message is heard and understood by the people who matter."
The Chamber and Black Country Consortium have published a magazine, Black Country United, to support their lobbying activity at the conference. The magazine, in the style of a football programme, sets out the key messages from both organisations and will be given to Ministers and other senior party figures.
The Chamber is also hosting a reception on Sunday at which the Consortium will give a presentation on its Black Country - See It In Colour campaign.
The Consortium, a partnership of local authorities, public sector bodies and the private and voluntary sectors, is producing the Black Country Study, which aims to devise strategies to reverse the trend of people leaving the Black Country.