The Coronavirus Pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for the whole economy, and I am determined that we don’t see a reversal of the excellent progress we have been making in terms of employment and growth in the region. I was tasked by the Prime Minister to lead our regional recovery and have been working closely with Government, our region’s councils and local businesses to drive forward our recovery and renewal.
The Government has taken unparalleled steps to support residents in the West of England for which I am very grateful. Over 132,700 local people have had their jobs protected by the furlough scheme and a further 41,200 are benefitting from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
I’m taking action locally, to make sure that residents can feel secure in their jobs. I have expanded my Future Bright programme to provide hands-on coaching and careers advice for every resident whose job has been affected by the pandemic.
My Careers Hub is now operating in every school and college in the West of England to give our young people advice and work experience to help give their career the best possible start.
Our businesses are the backbone of our region, providing thousands of jobs for residents. I have expanded the trusted advice we give to businesses through our West of England Growth Hub so it becomes a first port of call for businesses for support in these challenging times. Looking forward, I have also set up programmes to help businesses adapt for the future through digital training and ensuring they can promote employee mental health, boosting productivity.
I have introduced new programmes so that businesses can create new training and employment opportunities; combining this with the new local control we have over adult education to tailor-make courses to meet the specific skills needs of residents and businesses in the region.
I am making it easier for residents to receive training closer to home, to learn new skills and get a secure job. I have approved new investments into training facilities such as the City of Bristol College’s Advanced Construction Skills Centre, based at Hengrove Park or the Somer Valley Construction Centre near Radstock.
I am also making sure we’re backing the businesses of the future, with investments to keep our globally leading businesses at the cutting edge of new technology. That keeps major employers in the region and attracts more investment and jobs. This includes the Business Innovation Fund which I recently launched to help SMEs bring new products and services to market. Investing in research in the region such as the National Composites Centre in South Gloucestershire or the new iSTART Digital and Creative Innovation Centre at Bath College, will also ensure we remain a globally-leading centre for innovation, high-tech manufacturing and the creative and digital industries.
This is just the beginning. Our post-Covid Economic renewal is my number one priority and I will continue to back our residents and businesses across the West of England.