In the Autumn budget, the Chancellor announced that the Office of Budget Responsibility had revised its productivity growth forecast down from 2 per cent to 1.5 per cent in 2017.
This move means the UK’s productivity forecast is behind most of its peers within the G7 group of leading industrial nations.
For many in the West Midlands this will not come as a surprise; we’ve seen demand for skilled engineering, manufacturing and digital roles outstripping supply for some time now and although work is underway to try to bridge the skills gap, there remains opportunity for more to be done .
The advantage we have is that there is already a great network of public, private and voluntary organisations who are working together across the region to try to address this collectively.
Making a difference
Recognising that we all have a role to play means that we can identify the areas where we can each make the greatest difference to these efforts.
For example, we are funding more than 500 trainee engineers as a part of our five-year, £5 million investment in the Lloyds Bank Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre in Coventry.
By giving apprentices the opportunity to gain invaluable exposure to modern manufacturing techniques including robotics, 3D printing, intelligent automation and advanced metrology, we can help to overcome a significant skills deficit.
And it’s a timely partnership.
The investment coincides with the dawning of a new era for UK manufacturing.
According to a recent Government report, the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ presents the sector with the opportunity to unlock £455 billion over the next decade and create thousands of jobs.
With China, the USA and Mainland Europe already leading the way, it’s important that West Midlands businesses aim high and set their sights on the global stage.
Driving this phenomenon is advanced digital technology and alongside this, we’re actively championing businesses to embrace digital capabilities, to help them maximise their growth potential.
This can feel quite complex for both individuals and organisations alike and so being able to invest the time and resource to up-skill in this area can, in itself, be a real barrier.
As a way to support this we’re providing regular workshops across the region to give people access to free, expert advice.
We have 3,500 Digital Champions across the Midlands who are specially trained to help individuals and organisations improve their online skills, whether they’re looking to access new opportunities, boost sales or save time and money.
By also offering support at grass roots level, we can help young people to be better prepared for the world of work.
Over the past year, our ‘Schools to Work’ programme has successfully helped to break down the barriers that exist for young people looking to access careers in the finance industry.
Guiding 1000 students
Over the past year, we’ve guided more than 1000 students across the region through a combination of financial literacy and career support sessions, including CV writing, interview preparation and one-to-one coaching.
We’ve also hosted sessions at our Birmingham-based offices to give pupils hands-on experience of working for a large financial services group.
For pupils at Walsall-based Ormiston Shelfield Community Academy – just one of the local schools and colleges we’re working with to help nurture local talent in the Midlands – the partnership has proved to be worthwhile.
All these initiatives combine to demonstrate the scope of opportunities that are available for anyone wanting to share in the economic and social benefits of a successful region – whether you’re a business owner looking to improve manufacturing or digital skills within your organisation, or an ambitious young person who wants to gain advance knowledge of the corporate world and give their career the best possible start.
With the West Midlands set to play a key role in the government’s Industrial Strategy, never has there been a more important time for public and private sectors to work together to help ensure our region is fit for the future.
Martin Dodd is Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for the Midlands.
In 2014 the Group launched its Helping Britain Prosper plan to help people, businesses and communities across Britain tackle the challenges facing them.
Serving around 25 million customers and one million small businesses right across the country, the Group aims to go beyond ‘business as usual’ to help overcome systemic social and economic challenges, from addressing Britain’s housing shortage and closing the gap in key industries, to improving social mobility and tackling social disadvantage.