August 2021: News from Metro Mayor Dan Norris
New skills for jobs of the future
I’M writing this column as my Jobs and Skills Summit, which I pledged to hold during my first 100 days in office, draws to a close.
It wasn’t quite as I envisaged (there’s still too much Covid for that) but I have met hundreds of people who are in and out of work, or studying, as well as hearing from businesses and trade unions.
One thing that stood out for me was the power of technology. When I visited apprentices training to be locksmiths, I suppose I’d thought it would be about things like cutting keys. But actually lots of keys, locks and security systems are high tech these days. So, it was about transponders, face recognition software and key cards that only let specific people into certain parts of a building at set times.
Likewise, when I met apprentice mechanics, they weren’t servicing petrol cars. Instead I found out about the training they are doing to work on electric cars. It’s vital we skill up more people, otherwise there is going to be a real roadblock to the plan to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and our ambitious West of England plan for net zero by the same year. The Institute of the Motor Industry says that just 5% of garage and dealer technicians are appropriately trained to work on electric cars at the moment. So we definitely need more great people like those I met at S&B Automotive Academy.
I met apprentices studying at the University of Bath, where we talked about the exciting possibilities for quantum computing, where our region is leading the way. Quantum computers can do a calculation in just over an hour that it would take the world’s most powerful supercomputer eight years to crack.
Another inspiring visit was to the Women’s Work Lab that is helping mums get back to work. Some had been unemployed for years and others had lost their jobs in the pandemic. What the two inspiring women leading the programme had done was give the other women a rocket booster of confidence, identifying their skills and arranging work experience.
We are at a tricky time. There is the danger of the furlough cliff edge, and business owners told me the pandemic has been the toughest time they have ever known. At the same time, Covid case numbers are rising again, which is why we need a science-led approach to reopening.
Moving forward, I will be working with employers and trade unions to create 23,000 new green jobs.
I plan to introduce a good employers charter to encourage businesses to do the right thing by our communities and their staff.
I will keep pressing the Government to support businesses struggling with the effects of covid, because it’s a lot easier to save a job than create new ones.
And on skills, I am determined to replicate that supportive go-getter atmosphere I found, so even more people can find a job that allows them to fulfil their potential.