Gloucestershire’s new Local Industrial Strategy has really put our young people front and centre of its focus for the future.
And as someone who has always tried to campaign and support the vision of our young people, as a vital key key to the county’s future wealth and wellbeing, I am encouraged by the opening forward quote in the strategy which runs to over 80 pages.
It says: “Technological change will have a huge impact on everyone’s lives and livelihoods over the next few decades - indeed it has already started.
“Many types of jobs will disappear - others will be created, but we are yet to see whether policy and the public will keep up with the pace of change effectively.
“It is on all of us to get out in front of it and proactively skill-up and inform ourselves to be ready.”
What a brilliant exposition of our challenge in the local Gloucestershire economy and our jobs market.
I have been worried - like many business people here - that we really are in a demographic mess and the 2050 Vision project exposed this as a very serious issue.
That told us that we are haemorrhaging young people from Gloucestershire at an alarming rate - some of them never to return.
So, that is why GFirstLEP decided to take a deep dive into the thoughts of our young people about what they wanted for their future in Gloucestershire.
And the results of that survey mean we must become what the strategy is calling a ‘Magnet County’ - able to attract and retain those young people with all their skills.
This is an ageing county, and although very attractive to people living here in their later years, we must be a true magnet to ensure that young people born and bred here come back to start their own families.
I can find no fault in the ten key ambitions in the draft Local Industrial Strategy, which will be finally published next March.
Those ambitions are - fully explained on our website in the full text of the Local Industrial Strategy:
- To be the cyber-tech capital of the UK and beyond
- digitally connected and skilled
- the greenest place to live and work in England
- the first place in the world to create a healthy circular economy in food and farming
- the most flexible place to work in the UK
- a “magnet county” that attracts and retains young people
- inclusive and supportive of all its residents
- delivering sustained productivity improvements
- a great place to live and work
Without a doubt, the development of cyber, building on the investment in Cyber Central - a major new UK cyber-tech business next to GCHQ -provides the biggest new opportunity to boost the Gloucestershire economy.
But we must not forget that Gloucestershire is where the jet engine was born and we must not ignore the traditional precision engineering businesses which are the county’s heritage.
We must continue to ensure they thrive by developing a pipeline of skilled young people. There is no better place to see that in action than at the SGS Berkeley Green campus.
That old Chinese proverb says: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
That is where Gloucestershire is now with this new, exciting industrial strategy but there must be a clear focus on priorities - not everything can be achieved at once.
This is just the first step.