A ‘huge’ skills shortage is dimming job prospects for thousands of West Midland school-leavers – with constant complaints over young adults’ employability, says MP Adrian Bailey.
West Bromwich West MP Mr Bailey said even the brightest pupils were often ill-prepared for the workplace, while a flawed educational system geared to an ‘academic agenda’ was holding back career hopes for many young adults.
But he highlighted the sales successes of Jaguar Land Rover in recent years and the vehicle-maker’s creation of thousands of jobs as a barometer for economic growth in the region and a boom for employment.
The MP, chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee in the House of Commons, is helping promote a free Black Country Jobs and Careers Fair on Friday July 12 at the Public in West Bromwich, backed by more than 30 local employers, in support of local youngsters.
“There is an issue around the employability of young people – it is a constant complaint. Even the brightest do not seem to be work-ready, and this has moved politicians, the education sector and business to realise that we have all got a responsibility here,” he said.
“I think we have an education system which is geared to delivering an academic agenda. Qualifications and university entrance became the be-all and end-all.
“There are the 50 per cent that do not get into university and I think that means that schools are often judged on their ability to deliver to the higher education sector rather than get them into jobs that will suit them.
“I also get complaints from business about graduates – sometimes it is about basic literacy and numeracy. It can also be about attitude, presentation and commitment. Some pupils seem to suffer from exaggerated expectations.
“They are bombarded with expectations, but they find the real world is more difficult than that. We are trying to reverse this.
“To change that, I believe that involves changing the way we monitor and judge schools and it involves a much better career service with one-to-one mentoring.
“Jaguar Land Rover is a demonstration of what foreign investment can do to reinforce what was a very strong brand anyway. JLR has completely changed the whole perception of the motor industry in the West Midlands.
“Britain is a world-leader in the biopharmacy industry, aerospace and automotive. With JLR embedded in the West Midlands, there is huge potential for growth.
“My own constituency has got more foundries than any other constituency in the country and the potential for supplying JLR and others is there.”
Mr Bailey said skills shortages were hampering the recovery from the recession. “There is a huge skills shortage in IT and engineering and there has been a huge problem getting young people into stem subjects which are the basis for engineering for a long time,” he said.
“But businesses are now far more constructively engaged in trying to change that and I think that Jaguar Land Rover has transformed the perception of the area – they are the archetype of how to export your way out of a recession.
“We have lost a lot (manufacturing jobs) but what we are seeing is a slimmed down, highly advanced, research-based manufacturing sector emerging in this area. I feel that with the investment in JLR in the West Midlands, there is the potential for a new economic revival.
“The way to regional growth is giving regional universities the wherewithal to work with local business. The increasing connection between higher education and business is becoming crucial.”
n A varied range of employers from the private and public sector will attend tomorrow’s Jobs Fair, including Sandwell Council, Centro, Barclays Bank, Thomas Vale Construction, Wates Living Space, the MidCounties Co-operative and the Black Country Reinvestment Society. The event, supported by Sandwell Council, runs from 10am to 3pm.