West Midlands Mayor targets closing job vacancies gap

The level of job vacancies in the West Midlands has risen by 40 per cent in the space of a year.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street

The Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street has pledged to do all he can to help businesses find the staff with the skills they need to fill the posts.

He said that from June last year to last month regional vacancies were up from 94,000 to 131,000.

Mr Street said that unemployment had fallen in the region over that period and stood at 132,000 for the three months to April.

"Definite progress has been made in closing the gap in the employment rate for the West Midlands and the country as a whole," he added.

Mr Street said he was now determined to help improve the disproportionate unemployment rates in some of the areas of the region. Wolverhampton currently has 7.5 per cent of its working population claiming benefits including Universal Credit.

"We are doing everything we can to bring down the rates further and faster," he stressed.

The West Midlands Combined Authority is working with Jobcentre Plus to improve skills training.

"Over the last two years 135,000 have gone through different WMCA training schemes," he explained.

Earlier this month it announced a £515 million boost to skills training over the next three years.

Mr Street said this "war chest" would help employers find skilled people.

"For anyone attending a Jobcentre with a work coach there will be a training programme for you," he added.

"During the pandemic Jobcentres were fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. What we have seen over the last year is a real acceleration of Jobcentres putting people in to physical training and we are now seeing the benefit of that."

Mr Street said training was being targeted at sectors needing more skilled people including nursing, logistics, construction and digital.

"We have held one jobs event at the Hawthorns in West Bromwich for the logistics sector with details of 300 vacancies available.

"Logistics is an example of a sector where people are becoming more highly paid," he explained.

Mr Street said that it was not true that the region had been hit by a large number of people leaving the workforce as had happened in other areas of the country.

"The inactivity rate is almost the same as it was 12 months ago at 21.3 per cent," he pointed out.

He believes that the furlough scheme operating during the pandemic, a low redundancy rate in the region and a record low level of insolvencies have helped keep the unemployment rate low in the region.

"In the long term we have to think about how our regional plan for growth in new sectors across the West Midlands can be supported.

"We need to make sure people are trained in the right skills that these sectors will need," Mr Street added.

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