Coventry and Warwickshire City Deal

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 14th February 2013.

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Photo of Chris White Chris White Conservative, Warwick and Leamington 5:00 pm, 14th February 2013

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Part of solving a problem is recognising where the gap is. I think that the city deal goes a long way towards solving that particular problem in the local area.

I repeat that the city deal has strong political support from across region, with Coventry city council, Warwickshire county council, Warwick district council and five other district councils supporting the proposal from across all the political parties. I believe that this will ensure that businesses can feel confident in these proposals and can know that if they invest in skills and training, they will be supported and will find partners in our region if they want to expand and grow their work forces.

The deal has brought various business groups together, such as the local chambers of trade and Coventry and Warwickshire chamber of commerce. In the light of the city deal bid, Coventry and Warwickshire chamber of commerce has today agreed a new partnership with the Manufacturing Advisory Service and EEF, which will provide better services for manufacturers, engineering companies and automated businesses. It is an example of the additional concentration and focus that the bid has been able to provide.

To achieve this, the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP will create a re-engineering skills board, which will bring together businesses, universities, colleges and local authorities to join up supply and demand so that both providers and employers can plan for the future, matching training provision to business cycles rather than fixed academic cycles. The board will work on new courses to meet the specific requirements of local manufacturers, and to build on local successes such as the advanced skills accreditation scheme chaired by Jaguar Land Rover. The proposals sensibly focus on the upskilling of existing engineers and the retraining of unemployed people, which would enable us to use the labour resources currently at our disposal to achieve the maximum impact. All this will come under the heading of the Game Changer skills programme mentioned by my hon. Friend Mark Pawsey, which will be a brand that both local people and businesses can recognise and understand.

The city deal makes four requests. First, it asks the Government to devolve control of skills and apprenticeship funding to deliver the programme. Secondly, it asks them to allow Coventry and Warwickshire to pilot the new traineeships programme and level 6/7 apprenticeships. Thirdly, it asks for local flexibility that would allow it to adapt the Work programme to the proposal, so that those aged 18 to 24 could attend GAME changer skills programme events. Finally, it asks for capital funding to be realised for the development of an advanced manufacturing apprentice resource at the manufacturing technology centre in Ansty.

I believe that these are targeted, sensible proposals which will ensure that we obtain the maximum value for money and build on the programmes and infrastructure that we already possess, but they must be weighed against the expected benefits. I believe that this city deal bid shows great potential for the future of our area. The aim is to deliver 5,000 new engineers to the workplace over the next two years, and to eliminate the city deal area’s engineering skills shortage by 2020, as well as significantly increasing the number of engineering apprenticeships being delivered at intermediate and higher levels.

On the back of that stronger skills base, the city deal could potentially eliminate the productivity gap in Coventry and Warwickshire, adding billions of pounds to our economy and creating the environment for tens of thousands of new jobs. The bid itself estimates that about 30,000 jobs could be created through its skills programme alone. I believe that those are significant benefits which are in line with the Government’s objectives of reducing unemployment, rebalancing our economy towards manufacturing and exports, and reskilling our economy so that we are able to adapt to future and desperate needs.

I recognise that there is competition for wave 2 of the city deals project, and I know that Ministers will be considering a variety of other bids. However, I believe that the Coventry and Warwickshire city deal has fantastic potential for our region and for communities across the west midlands. There is a shared sense of purpose throughout the public, private and independent sectors as a result of the bid, and we have a unique opportunity to capitalise on the momentum that has been generated by this proposal.

I urge the Government to pick the Coventry and Warwickshire city deal bid, and to invest in the skills of local people in an area which has the infrastructure in place to grow. That will not only enhance our competitiveness but, most important, create tens of thousands of jobs.