Some very good news for West Midlands was announced a week ago when Education Secretary Damian Hinds visited the Black Country, a significant boost of up to £69 million for skills development in the region. If you missed it you read all on the Government web site and/or the Combined Authority site.
It is a long standing complaint that employers in the region find it hard to get the skills that they need. That, in turn, limits their potential and holds back the jobs market at all levels, choking the challenge of getting unemployment levels down.
Then, it needs not to be said, higher employment levels reduce burdens on the health service and the benefits system and also help to reduce crime and even indirectly raise aspiration and attainment levels amongst children.
There are strong arguments to suggest that the £69 million, spent wisely, would repay itself quickly through a stronger regional economy and reductions elsewhere in burdens on the public purse.
For me, there is one fly in this ointment. The press releases refer to the public sector, the education sector and the private sector but there is no mention of the community sector or, as we sometimes call it, the Third Sector. Despite being a major employer, despite being the most effective player when it comes to supporting those furthest from the jobs market into employment, despite being the sector that is relied upon for support when the effects of being unable to make an economic contribution spill over into negative impacts in family homes, we are not in the picture.
Too often, when it comes to major strategic matters of such nature, the role that our sector can play is overlooked. So, is that a matter for complaint, something to be protested about?
I would suggest not. The subject of the investment suggests a parallel to me. To secure a job at any level in any organisation, one cannot expect it on a plate. Someone who feels they deserve a job will be doomed to fail. The prospective employee requires the skills and the attitude and needs to put them across. The successful appointee will have convinced the employer that they will be an asset to the company’s workforce.
We need to ask ourselves whether our sector expects to be included by default or whether it understands that it will be having the right skills and attitude that will make key decision makers want us at the strategic tables. Do we effectively communicate what we bring to the party? Do we present ourselves as fully equipped for the roles we aspire to play?
Our sector has a clear potential, if supporting, role in the Combined Authority’s drive to get people working and get businesses the skills they need. Like those who will benefit from this new investment by securing new or better jobs and creating stronger businesses, we can succeed in playing our part with the right mix of skills and attitude.