Dudley MP Ian Austin has called for radical action to improve education in the Black Country in a speech to educators from around the region.
The MP was speaking at the ‘Fairer Britain’ conference held by training company Black Country Training Group (BCTG) to discuss how young people are prepared for life in modern Britain.
Recent rankings show that Britain has fallen behind countries like Germany, South Korea, Poland and Slovakia on basic numeracy and literacy. Weaknesses have also been identified in vocational training with Germany training three times as many apprentices as the UK.
The Black Country lags behind on national standards for basic numeracy and literacy, and less than half of secondary schools in the region meet the national average at GCSE.
Speaking at the conference, Austin called for schools, councils, businesses and parents to commit to making education the Black Country’s number one priority and achieve the sharpest improvement in standards of any region in the country.
He also called for every business in the region to partner with local schools to teach young people about the world of work. The MP argued that businesses could help by offering proper work experience placements for every youngster, particularly in manufacturing and engineering companies, hi-tech businesses, lawyers, banks and professional services companies.
Ian Austin said:
“We’ve lost many of our traditional industrial jobs and I think the biggest question we face is how we bring new, well-paid and secure jobs to the Black Country to replace them.
“We need to make education our number one priority because the only way we’ll attract the new investment and jobs on which the area’s prosperity depends is by having the skills new industries need.
“This is a huge problem and we all have to work together to solve it. I want every Black Country business to work with schools and offer work placements so youngsters can see you only succeed through hard work, and the whole community has to make a commitment to having the sharpest improvement in school standards in the country.”