Monday 20 October 2008 14:54

Regional Minister For The East Of England (East)

Gordon Brown to deliver video message to business, education and community leaders at East of England regional debate on the 'talent challenge'

The Prime Minister today addresses an audience of 120 businesses, senior politicians and representatives from education and the community on the need to tackle the UK's talent challenge, one of the gravest issues currently facing the country.

The debate, hosted by Barbara Follett, Regional Minister for the East of England, and sponsored by BAA Stansted, is one of a series of regional events supported by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and arranged by Business in the Community that will look at ways of unlocking the nation's talent and skills both inside and outside the workplace.

Against the backdrop of a fast changing world, Britain is also now facing unprecedented competition from the rising aspirations and skill levels of the major global economies. This is both an urgent challenge and a real opportunity for the UK to embrace.

Regional Ministers have been invited to launch the debate in each of their local areas, and will report back to the Prime Minister later in the year.

Stephen Howard, Chief Executive of Business in the Community said: "Talent is not the same as skills. Talent is about the inherent quality in people to be good at something. We are facing the biggest restructuring of the world economy since the rise of the USA. Britain needs to urgently address the gap between where the country is today and where we need to be to remain competitive.

"No one sector can tackle this alone. Unlocking the nation's talent is a mission for all of us, across education, business, community and government. However, it is also an opportunity. Today's debate will allow an exchange of ideas and enable the key stakeholders responsible for driving this agenda forward to learn from each other and begin to think about the actions needed to respond to the challenge it presents."

The Minister for the East of England, Barbara Follett said:
"The East of England has one of the best placed economies in the United Kingdom to survive the current difficult trading conditions. However, our skills - a long term concern of mine - remain relatively low compared to those of the rest of the country and, consequently, so does our productivity.

"If the East of England wants to compete effectively in the world economy we have to address this skills deficit - now. That is why I am so pleased to be officially opening the new Stansted Employment and Skills Academy today. At present, there are about 66,000 people without jobs in the East of England and those without formal qualifications, or who have been out of work for a long time, often lack the confidence and current skills they need to even get short listed for one of today's high tech vacancies. This new centre will provide easy access to training and give people the basic skills they need in order to make the most of the opportunities available."

"I listened with great interest to the contributions made during the Talent Debate and will make sure that the results are fed back to the Prime Minister who has asked to be kept informed about progress on this issue."

Deborah Cadman, chief executive of the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), and one of the keynote speakers at the debate, said:
"Fostering new skills and unlocking talent is absolutely essential for increasing business productivity. But perhaps more importantly, and certainly in the context of the current global economic downturn, a skilled workforce is an adaptable workforce."

"Businesses may well need to re-orientate themselves to cope with the challenges they face, and EEDA is working with businesses in the region to make sure they are well equipped to do so. We will shortly be announcing details of a significant investment in skills training grants through our Beyond 2010 programme for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the East of England. "

Notes to Editors

1. Further events will be taking place across the UK until 21st November 2008. Please contact Katy Neep on or 07841667449 for more information.

2. Business in the Community - mobilising business for good.
We inspire, engage, support and challenge companies on responsible business, working through four areas: Marketplace, Workplace, Environment and Community.

With more than 850 companies in membership, we represent 1 in 5 of the UK private sector workforce and convene a network of global partners.

These members commit to integrating responsible business, sharing experience and taking collaborative action.

This is achieved through campaigns, programmes, awards, benchmarks and publications.

Why?'s just good business.

3. The talent challenge in numbers

* In education the UK languishes 17th for reading and 24th for maths at this level according to OECD.

* More than one in six young people still leave school unable to read, write or add up properly.

* 5 million adults in the UK lack functional literacy. 17 million adults in the UK have difficulty with numbers. This is estimated to cost the UK economy £10 billion each year in lost productivity. By 2020, the remaining 6 million low skilled jobs remaining in the UK will have gone.

* Until recently secondary school standards had barely shifted in 50 years.

* Low unemployment masks almost 1.3 million people Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEETs), a group that is growing fast - up 15% since 1997.

* The failure to tap 'NEETs' potential undermines social cohesion, damages the economy, and puts a growing strain on the exchequer, estimated at £3.65bn a year.

* Out of the 30 OECD countries, the UK lies 17th on low skills and 20th on intermediate skills and has sunk to 14th place in the global Innovation Index behind countries such as Taiwan, Israel, Canada and South Korea.

* Offshoring and the removal of low skilled jobs due to innovation could lead to loss of 5m unskilled jobs by 2020.

Issued on behalf of the Minister for the East of England and Business in the Community by COI News & PR East.
For more media information please contact Liz Trott or Adele Williams Tel: 01223 372787

The Talent Debate
Monday 20 October 2008, 09.00 - 15.00hrs
Hilton Hotel, BAA London Stansted

Client ref 00-12

COI ref 166574P

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