The theme of this year’s conference was how GBSLEP is ‘Making its Mark’ on the region through partnership working, taken from the Competitive Positioning work GBSLEP has commissioned Marketing Birmingham to carry out.
On the stage
One year on from the launch of the Growth Hub, Saqib Bhatti announced how £1million of additional funding allocated from the Department of Businesses Innovation and Skills will continue to develop the Growth Hub’s offer, reaching more businesses and helping them to grow the local economy.
Andrew Cleaves detailed the highlights from the employment and skills agenda using the 3 key themes of Ignite, Accelerate and Retune and encouraged business and the education sectors to work closely together to bridge the gap between skills supply and demand.
Improving connectivity, Optimising Assets and creating a clear sense of place were the key themes of Simon Marks’ presentation as he took the audience through Enterprise Zone progress and the status of projects across the LEP geography funded by Local Growth Fund and Growing Places.
Attendees heard how more than £47 million of Local Growth Fund has been awarded to projects across the region, which will help to create 32,000 jobs, build 10,000 new homes and unlock 500,000 sqm of commercial floor space.
GBSLEP was one of the few LEPs in the country to spend its total allocation for 2015/16.
The benefits HS2 will bring across the three LEP pillars of Business, People and Place were highlighted in each of the presentations. From the HS2 supply chain business support programme and the National College for High Speed Rail to the HS2 Growth Strategy and Connectivity Package it is clear that HS2 presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive economic growth and prosperity across the Midlands.
Marc Reeves, Editor, Birmingham Mail and West Midlands editor-in-chief, Trinity Mirror Regionals, chaired the panel discussion which asked the question is GBSLEP making its mark? The panel: Paul Faulkner; Hillary Smyth-Allen; Cathy Gilbert and Dawn Ward CBE, concluded that great progress is being made but there are opportunities to do more particularly around skills.
In her keynote address Lucy Williams, Head of Regulatory Compliance at HSBC, talked of HSBC’s commitment to diversity and the warm welcome received since relocating to Birmingham. Lucy said that Birmingham is an amazing place and more work is needed to change the perception of the city in across the country.
Deputy Chair Steve Hollis presented the impressive Economic Performance of the region over the year but highlighted the significant challenges that remain such as the gap between GVA per head and the national average and low levels of people with NVQ3+.
Pat Hanlon discussed the key Access to Finance opportunities including the £250 million Midlands Engine Investment Fund. Anita Bhalla talked about the progress and opportunities for GBS in the Creative Industries.
One year on from the launch of the Work Coaches Programmes, Sandra Lambert, Central England Group Work Services Director, presented the amazing progress which the project has made including helping over 11,500 people into work. Sandra asked businesses in the region to pledge their support to the programme by completing the Business Pledge form.
Aviation Engineering Students from Solihull College made a short film on how an aircraft, funded by GBSLEP, is helping them to put their learning into practice.
The event ended with students from Birmingham Metropolitan, Burton and South Derbyshire and Solihull colleges telling us how they are making their mark.
Chair Andy Street summed up the day thanking the Board Directors, Partners and LEP Executive for their hard work and set out the priorities for the year ahead which include: Delivery of the £50million Local Growth Funding in 2016/17; Supporting delivery of the WMCA SEP and the Skills and productivity commission; realising the opportunities of HS2; producing a Spatial plan for growth for consultation; supporting growth in local centres and town centres.
Andy Street said:
We are at a pivotal point in the delivery of real economic change across the region. The results of our strategy are now being felt on the ground with Local Growth Fund investments progressing across our geography – from Solihull and East Staffordshire, to Cannock Chase and Birmingham.
Backing these projects shows how the collaboration between the public, private and education sector can drive productivity and increase skills and employment across the region.”
You can download the full presentation here