Eddie Hughes MP: Let's turn on the Skills Tap across the Midlands to boost social mobility

In the Midlands we have a proud history as pioneers across a range of industries. It was here in the 1800s that our region became the birthplace of the industrial revolution.

I was born in the Midlands and I’m honoured to now serve as the Member of Parliament for Walsall North in a part of the Midlands known as the Black Country - once one of the most industrialised parts of Britain.

In many ways we were the original makers, the strivers, the exporters; from coal mines, iron foundries, brickworks and steel mills - we produced goods that were exported to the far reaches of the world.

The Midlands was the beating heart of the United Kingdom's economy, but in recent years it has become a more complicated story. 

Whilst our economy is strong and employment is growing, the Midlands is now the worst region in the country for social mobility. Half of the local authorities in the East Midlands, and over a third of the local authorities in the West Midlands, have been identified as social mobility cold spots, according to the most recent Social Mobility Index produced by the Government.

This means that young people in our region have, on average, worse prospects than children born anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

This must change. 

I want to see action to boost opportunities across the Midlands, and I’m doing my bit to support business-led solutions to social mobility. 

That’s why I’m proud to have been appointed as the Midland Apprenticeships Champion for the Social Mobility Pledge, and I will be working on a Midlands-focused campaign in partnership with the Social Mobility Pledge to boost our local skills economy. 

As part of this I will be working with the Pledge and local businesses of all sizes and encouraging them to take on apprentices, and also work with them on the barriers that they might face in doing so.

As part of this campaign I will be working with the Social Mobility Pledge to bring together examples of social mobility best practice within local businesses, assessing what solutions work best, how to scale them, and to ensure opportunity is spread evenly across The Midlands.

The Pledge now represents over 2 million businesses. One of them, Severn Trent, is a great example of a Midlands business that recruits, trains and offers opportunity locally. I am encouraging other local businesses to sign the Social Mobility Pledge and get involved with building a first-rate skills economy in the Midlands.

The Pledge asks businesses to sign three commitments. Firstly, to form local partnerships with schools and colleges. Secondly, to provide access to meaningful internships and work experience to young people. Thirdly, to implement fair recruitment practices, such as considering the context of applications, or using name-blind recruitment procedures.

I think this is a huge opportunity for The Midlands to bring together our businesses and local communities with the objective of boosting social mobility in a practical way and delivering opportunities. 

Lewis Grice