Mayor pledges greater support for skills development from next devolution deal

Andy Street

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has pledged to deliver the region greater support for skills development during the next wave of devolution funding from the Government.

Mr Street told the annual conference of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce that the initial round of devolution funding had focused on the region’s transport and housing needs, however, social inclusion and skills development would form a greater focus of the next round of funding.

The conference had been told that skills development would be key to ensuring the area’s ability to capitalise on strong growth potential.

Addressing the conference, on what was the six-month anniversary of his election to office, Mr Street said progress on skills development had been slow and more needed to be done to improve this, even though Coventry and Warwickshire was ahead of the game compared to other parts of the region.

He said innovation would be a greater driver of growth and with the work being done by the area’s universities was crucial.

“There was very little in the first devolution deal on skills development and there has not been enough progress on this,” he said.

“Innovation will help to drive this. We have brilliant universities in this region and the digital growth is the best outside London.

“But we want more. At the moment we are in the trenches, but real devolution will help us drive the skills programme.”

He pointed to innovative new projects being carried out in Coventry and Warwickshire, in particular the work being conducted into electric vehicle development, while the autonomous vehicle cluster was being based in the area.

He said if the region was to secure the National Battery Development Centre as well then it would locate Coventry and Warwickshire as the UK hub of electrical and autonomous vehicle innovation.

“This area is outperforming others. We have been successful because we have adopted our own mini-Industrial Strategy through the development of sectors such as automotive and life sciences,” he said.

“The collaborative working framework set up here has helped but we have to ask ourselves ‘what do you do with this hard-earned opportunity?’”
This is why the next phase of the devolution agreement would be crucial, he added.

He said greater control over direct funding would help the region to target finance more effectively, helping the projects that will deliver real economic growth.