Archive for November, 2014

Doubling the number of apprenticeships

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

This month we saw the Deputy Prime Minister in the West Midlands seeing the work done in increasing the number of apprentices.  Here in Staffordshire we have also made huge progress doubling the number of apprenticeships since 2009 from 4,570 to 9,620.

I’ve always said that apprenticeships are a key focus of our work to bring the opportunity of growth and prosperity to everyone in Staffordshire, especially by improving the employment, earnings and career prospects of our young people.

We have also led by example with our own apprenticeship programme taking on over 600 apprentices since 2009, and helping them secure their chosen careers across a wide range of occupations.

Increasing apprenticeships remains a priority for the County Council, especially at higher levels and within a wider breadth of sectors.  Advanced apprenticeships have already increased from 1,600 in 2010 to 4,000 in 2013, so we now want to promote them further as a credible alternative to other higher education routes.  Young people should see apprenticeships as a viable option for them in obtaining the better paid jobs on offer.

In July next year, we will hold for the first time ever a prestigious Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony  which  will give everyone involved – apprentices, their family, training providers and employers – the chance to come together with a real feeling of pride in what the apprentices have achieved in their learning and work.

 

Celebrating i54 South Staffordshire

Monday, November 24th, 2014

It was a privilege to meet up with our partners and businesses at our i54 South Staffordshire celebration event and thank all of the partners involved in the project, including local enterprise partnerships, Government and transport providers.

We have delivered the project on time, on budget and there’s four major businesses now up and running on site, showcasing the best of British engineering, science and advanced manufacturing. The site has secured hundreds of millions of pounds of investment with major companies now operational on site – Jaguar Land Rover, Moog, Eurofins and ISP – who will collectively employ 2,000 people.

We’ve  come a long way in just a few years, turning i54 South Staffordshire from a brownfield site in the midst of the recession to part of the best performing Enterprise Zone in the country.  Although almost 90% of the 239 acre site is now occupied we are continuing to attract more businesses.

This enterprise has helped to create thousands of jobs for our people both on i54 and in the local supply chain, with apprenticeships and skills programmes offering better opportunities for future generations too.

Staffordshire people recognised for their contributions to their local community

Monday, November 17th, 2014

I would like to pass on my thanks and Congratulations to our worthy British Empire Medal winners for their invaluable contributions to real work volunteering in their local communities. Mrs Marie Nash for services to the community of Branston, Kevin Lee for services to Policing, Peter Beardmore for services to Motorcycling in North Staffordshire and Edward Sharkey for services to the community of Barton-under-Needwood. Staffordshire relies heavily on its volunteers and it’s great to see so many get the recognition they deserve for their invaluable contributions to their local communities.

Last week we saw yet another drop in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s allowance.  Claims in Staffordshire have dropped to a seven year low of 1.1 per cent compared to the national average of 2.1 per cent.  This is hugely encouraging and proves again our work to bring jobs and growth to the county is paying off.  Our continuing investment in business parks, infrastructure projects and upskilling people along with the recent growth deal we secured is getting us national recognition as a county that delivers better paid jobs for its people.

The Lichfield Park scheme is another exciting project that is expected to create 1,000 jobs and provide a significant boost for the whole area.  I’m sure our economy will continue to grow even stronger, allowing people to lead the lives they want, be healthier, happier, and more independent.

Applications for IRONKIDS Staffordshire opened last week and no doubt we will have entries flooding in with keen youngsters wanting to be part of the event.  The event will make sure that the whole family gets a taste of the IRONMAN experience, giving kids the chance to take part in a 5km or 2.5km race depending on their age. The full IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire proved incredibly popular selling out in fourteen minutes. This is another good event helping to keep families active and healthy by example as well as participation with both events taking place next June which will see thousands of participants and visitors flock to the county. You can book your place on www.ironkids.co.uk

Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

 

Remembrance Sunday saw me attending my local memorial service at St. Michael’s Church in Rocester as I have done for many years. The church had a display of the life of all the men named on the memorial. The sense of pride found on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day in the people of our country is still an unmatched and inspiring tribute to the sacrifices of war.

This year is particularly poignant as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War and Staffordshire has particular memories at a local, national and international level. Besides our countywide war memorials we have the National Memorial Arboretum providing a focal point for the nation’s commemorations.  We are incredibly proud to have the NMA, a national and international centre of remembrance right here in the heart of the county.  It’s growing to be a symbolic place to learn, remember and celebrate and we will continue to fund it to help it achieve its aim of becoming a world class centre of remembrance.  This, along with the Commonwealth Graves and German Cemetery on Cannock Chase gives Staffordshire as good a claim as anywhere in the country to be the focus of the nation’s commemorations. We were also represented at the Menin Gate in Ypres by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and a new memorial at Arras by Brian Edwards of South Staffordshire District Council.

It was encouraging to see proposals for the multi-million pound investment in the A50 Growth Corridor take a step forward as the planning committee recommended to permit the scheme.  This is a hugely important piece of work that will help support new jobs and homes around Uttoxeter, improve connections between the East and West Midlands, ease congestion and crucially make journeys safer on this very busy trunk road.  We are proposing to carry out the work on behalf of the Highways Agency, and if endorsed by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the work is expected to start in the spring.

Sticking with roads, keeping them safe has always been one of our top priorities and it was pleasing to read the latest statistics which show that Staffordshire is now the second best county for road safety in the country.  Last year we saw a major reduction around 25% in the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.  Collisions on the county’s rural roads are also down, with an overall reduction of 5% in the last three years.  These latest figures are incredibly encouraging and prove that the hard work and innovative campaigns we are running to make our roads safer are paying off.  We won’t be complacent though, and will continue to work with our colleagues at the Fire Service and Police and wider Safer Roads Partnership to make our roads even safer.

A call to parents to tell us what they need to support their child

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

This week I’m keen to encourage as many people as possible to have their say on new plans to reshape how under 5s are supported in Staffordshire.

We’re at the ‘half-way’ point in the consultation and I feel that it’s critical that I press home how important it is for anyone who cares for a child to have their say.

How children are nurtured and cared for, how healthy and safe they are and the opportunities they have in their formative years have a huge impact on both their short term and long term health and wellbeing, and what they achieve in life.

That’s why we need to look at the current system. It’s just not working well enough to support children in the most important years of their life.

Only 25% of Staffordshire families benefit from the early years services we commission. Moreover, only 25% of our most vulnerable families are benefiting and only just over half (54%) of children are ready for school at the age of 5. This is just not good enough.

We need to reach families that need support earlier, we need to simplify how parents navigate the system , ensure that parents have access to sufficient quality children and ensure we protect the most vulnerable. We also need to change how we work with partners to do this.

No decisions will be made until January, but it is absolutely crucial for people to have their say before the consultation ends on 3 December. More information about the proposals and how you can have your say are available at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/beststart