From education to employment



@CBItweets – South West ranks fifth out of nine English regions assessed for productivity but is gaining ground. Action to tackle skills gaps, attract investment and improve digital infrastructure is needed to tackle pockets of low productivity.

Key levelling-up priorities include:

  • Tackling skills gaps by uniting business, local government and academia to develop a future workforce for growth sectors such as advanced engineering, digital and green technologies.
  • Improving digital infrastructure through full-fibre rollout, easing pressure on physical infrastructure and accelerating decarbonisation.
  • Inspiring world class businesses to invest in the region by improving access to targeted business support and capitalising on high quality regional universities to grow R&D and low-carbon industries.

New research by the CBI, supported by Lloyds Banking Group, has analysed the comparative economic health of England’s regions, assessing their strength in key criteria around business activity, education, employment, connectivity and social outcomes through a series of scorecards.

These form part of the organisation’s wider Reviving Regions work, highlighting regional successes, as well as the challenges that must be overcome for levelling-up ambitions to succeed in the wake of COVID-19.

CBI data shows the South West is rated as number one out of the nine English regions for business innovation, as well as for life satisfaction among its residents – aided by low levels of unemployment and short commuting times.

However the South West is not a region without challenges – including on the key metric of productivity. Investment is needed to address patchy digital connectivity, low numbers of firms offering in-work training contributes to skills gaps, and the region rates below average for deprivation and export income.

Ben Rhodes, CBI South West Acting Director, said:

“The South West is one of England’s most vibrant and diverse regions, boasting strength across a wide range of sectors such as cyber and defence, high value manufacturing and aerospace, fintech, maritime and creative industries.

“It also has the potential to excel in industries of the future. This is a region that is well equipped to play a leading role in the UK’s push for net-zero, supported by a high-performing higher and further education sector, and regional assets such as the  UK Met Office, GCHQ and the National Composites Centre. There is much to build upon.

“Yet there remains work to do if the South West is to reach its full potential. Long overdue investment in digital and physical infrastructure is crucial, alongside action to tackle skills gaps.

“Leaders in business and at all levels of government must show the ambition and vision needed to foster a culture of growth by investing in the infrastructure, people and skills this region needs.

“Effective partnership between public and private sectors will be essential in enabling the South West to rebuild from the economic ravages of COVID-19, drive up its productivity, and lay the foundations for a better and more prosperous future for all.”

Jeremy Hayward, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for the South West of England, said:

“There is some extremely good news in the scorecards for the South West and we should capitalise on our strength in areas like business innovation and life satisfaction. These means the brightest and best from the region will be encouraged to stay, while others will be attracted by what we have to offer.

“However we cannot be complacent – there is work to do to address skills gaps in some parts of the South West and while we are gaining ground in terms of productivity, differences in output between parts of the region mean the public and private sectors must work together to make sure no communities are left behind.

“We at Lloyds Banking Group are working across the region on a range of initiatives, including virtual work experience and career taster sessions, which are designed to encourage and inspire the region’s future workforce and we will continue to find ways to play our part.”

The CBI hopes its study can help focus minds in business and government – at all levels, including the newly-elected West of England mayor – on regional growth priorities ahead of the release of its Seize The Moment economic vision next week.

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