A new drive to support the city's economic growth and give people across Wolverhampton the skills they need to get good jobs was announced yesterday (Wednesday 19 November, 2014).

The Wolverhampton Skills and Employment Commission will bring together businesses, education and training providers and the council to find solutions aimed at improving the city's prospects for sustainable, long term economic growth and prosperity.

City of Wolverhampton council leader, Roger Lawrence, announced his intention to establish the commission in his annual 'State of Wolverhampton' speech to the council in September. He made it clear that tackling unemployment and skills shortages in Wolverhampton is a top priority.

Councillor Lawrence said: "The new commission will be completely independent and will examine the challenges faced by the city and opportunities to improve. I'm delighted that Professor Tony Travers, Director of the London School of Economics (LSE), has agreed to lead the commission. Professor Travers will bring a huge amount of knowledge, talent and objective independence to this very important role."

As part of its review, the commission will be gathering evidence from employers and education providers via meetings and an online website which will be launched in December. It will examine all of the evidence submitted and report its recommendations to Wolverhampton City Council and Wolverhampton City Board. Initial findings are due in March 2015 and a final report will be completed in June 2015.

Commission chairman Professor Tony Travers said: "It's a real honour to be invited to chair the Wolverhampton Skills and Employability Commission and hopefully make a real and lasting difference to the lives of Wolverhampton people. The commission will act independently and will need local businesses, schools, colleges and the university to be fully engaged to be successful. It will consider national and regional research and review what is already in place to address skills shortages and what is needed."

Councillor Lawrence added: "This is a really important initiative for the city and we have set challenging timescales because we're determined to put in place effective measures, based on evidence and feedback from employers, to start to make a difference as soon as we can.

"There's no doubt this is going to be a challenge for all of us as we know we have higher unemployment and lower skills levels than other areas. However, we're determined to tackle this and I'm convinced that, by working and pulling together, the city can be confident and optimistic about the future.

"And we are moving in the right direction. The city is attracting high-end manufacturers with i54 being a prime example. However there is a long way to go - while employment opportunities grow we must make sure there is a local workforce here able to take advantage."

Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor of Wolverhampton University and member of Wolverhampton's City Board said: "We are pleased the university will play an integral role in the commission and welcome Professor Travers' appointment. For the city to grow and develop, we need a workforce that can seize the opportunities presented. The commission's role is undoubtedly a challenging one but I'm optimistic that it will help us create a more joined up, inclusive and better connected city."

  • released: Thursday 20 November, 2014