Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, on Wednesday 12th June 2013, hosted a breakfast meeting at the House of Commons, with Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, focusing on bridging the skills gap in Berkshire.
Attended by over 80 delegates from business, local government and the third sector, the meeting was hailed by delegates as a success, with inspiration and much food for thought from a range of speakers. Alok Sharma MP opened the presentations by welcoming guests and reinforcing the importance of the sub region as an economic power house.
Speakers also included Tim Smith, Business Director for the LEP, Joanne Harper, Designate Principal at UTC Reading and Nigel Townley, Engineering Director for Cisco Systems, Sponsor Employee of UTC Reading. Berkshire has high concentrations of knowledge-based businesses compared to the UK, with the IT sector being a particularly strong employer. However, Joanne and Nigel focused on the need of a systemic change to address the economic drag caused by skills shortage in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths, as well as a fragmented service to young people in need of support. The objective is to reduce long term youth (16-24) Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) across the sub region by delivering the LEP’s ambition for the next generation workforce.
Finally, Cllr David Lee, Public Sector Director for Thames Valley Berkshire LEP spoke on how the City Deal, which aims to ensure that young people can access local job opportunities in a seamless transition from education to employment, is an example of a new way of working, set out on the recent Heseltine report on economic growth. The key infrastructure priority in the City Deal proposal is to speed up the delivery of a Western Rail Access link to Heathrow, which has already secured the commitment of £500m from government.
Further achievements from Thames Valley Berkshire LEP were showcased, including the second tranche of Local Pinch Point funding released to tackle road congestion, with Thames Valley Berkshire authorities gaining six approvals out of their nine bids, totalling £13.3 million; and investment of £7.3 million of ‘Growing Places Funds’ capital to create the TVB Funding Escalator, with the commercialisation and expansion schemes already subject of 32 enquiries for a total of £2.09m and to date £850,000 of loans approved since February.
Alok Sharma said: “I was delighted to host this event in Parliament and to support the work of the local enterprise partnership, and to meet some of the local business people in Reading with success stories to tell. I will continue to work closely with the LEP to help maintain the Thames Valley as a vibrant hub for business and employment.”
Steve Lamb, Chair for Thames Valley Berkshire LEP commented: “The power behind our LEP is the ‘collaborative momentum’ of those who get involved to make a difference and drive our economy to new levels. It was therefore the aim of the Breakfast Meeting to grow our network, enable attendees to help shape the Plan by offering their views and consolidate our strengths to promote Thames Valley Berkshire as the best place in the country to live, work and do business.”
Photos: Alok with Cllr David Lee, Public Sector Director for Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, Joanne Harper, Designate Principal at UTC Reading and Nigel Townley, Engineering Director for Cisco Systems
Alok Sharma with attendees at the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership breakfast meeting on the House of Commons Terrace