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Date: 12/10/2016

MPs and other opinion formers taking a break from the Conservative Party Conference last week were told that devolution could be one way to achieve an education system that is attuned to local business needs.

Francis Martin, President of the British Chambers of Commerce, told a fringe event at the Conference that business needed a more locally-focused education system to meet the challenges of future growth.

He was speaking a day after Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond, speaking at the Conference, had confirmed the Government’s commitment to the Midlands Engine for Growth and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has also committed £12m to Midlands Connect, which is driving better connectivity between towns and cities in the Midlands.

Mr Martin, speaking at the event which was jointly hosted by eight regional Chambers of Commerce which together represent over 14,000 businesses, said that links between education and business need to be stronger and education has to be more responsive to changes in industry.

He also called for reassurances from Government for EU-based employees of UK companies and for those wanting to come to work in the UK, saying that Britain will need to “continue to attract people on a pragmatic basis” post-Brexit.
Mr Martin added that “all Chambers are different” and have to “respond to local needs and local business community priorities” but that one of the strengths of the Chamber movement is its ability to work together to enhance business.

Conservative MPs from across the region were invited to join the Chambers and representatives of local businesses at the ‘fringe’ event, intended to show how businesses can work together to continue to drive growth despite current market uncertainties.

Other MPs attending the Conference had an open invitation to take part, the aim being to informally provide Ministers with a closer insight into regional business priorities at a time of uncertainty as far as growth and investment are concerned.

Exporters, each with their own concerns about Britain post-Brexit, make up about a third of the membership of the Chambers taking part in the event at the Studio at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, close to the main entrance of the International Conference Centre, which is the main venue for the Conference.

The eight Chambers involved were Herefordshire & Worcestershire, Greater Birmingham, East Midlands, Black Country, Staffordshire, Coventry & Warwickshire, Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes Chambers of Commerce.
Between them, the Chambers represent members across 25 business sectors and handle over 100,000 export documents a year.
Sophia Haywood, Policy Executive at Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said:

“Time and time again, businesses highlight the importance of skills and speak of their difficulties to find the right staff. This has never been more important in light of the uncertainty the UK is experiencing at the moment, particularly around Brexit. Local businesses need assurance from Government that making long-term investments is worthwhile and they also need to envisage what Britain post-Brexit will look like.

“By working closely with other Chambers of Commerce, eight of which took part in last week’s event, along with firms across the midlands, we hope to focus regional and national MPs attention onto the issues that matter to businesses and to map out a route for business to play a significant part in shaping the future for Britain.”