We need urgent action on apprenticeships to tackle long-term youth unemployment in Dudley that's twice the national average.
Last week I was delighted to visit Dudley College’s new advanced manufacturing and technology centre, Dudley Advance.
Under Lowell Williams Dudley College has transformed our town centre, and now Dudley Advance is being developed in conjunction with Aston University and local manufacturers like Thomas Dudley to bring first-class training facilities to the town. This brilliant new technology and manufacturing centre will soon be open, helping local businesses grow, educating young people and helping adults get new jobs too.
More than that it will help make Dudley a destination for manufacturers on the lookout for talented engineers, designers and technicians.
I think the biggest question we face in Dudley is how we help local businesses grow and bring new, well-paid and secure jobs to our area to replace the ones we’ve lost.
This is why I have been saying that we need to make education and skills our number one priority. It's the only way we’ll attract the new investment and new industries on which our prosperity will depend in the future.
Dudley Advance and local manufacturers are leading the way by training up the next generation, but we need really urgent action to help young people in Dudley where long-term youth unemployment is twice the national average.
Labour is promising to put as many local people into apprenticeships as go to university, helping to bring new, well-paid and secure jobs to the Black Country to replace the ones lost in traditional industries.
We can start boosting apprenticeship numbers by getting the government to provide apprenticeships as part of all public spending programmes. There’s no reason why every home, road or school built with public money shouldn’t generate apprenticeships.
I also think that large companies should train a new apprentice for each skilled worker they hire from outside the EU.
And we need to ensure that apprenticeships are high quality too, by introducing new Technical Degrees. Technical Degrees would be a gold standard vocational qualification for high-level skills that would allow students to learn on the job as an apprentice alongside university, allowing them to earn a wage while studying.
This way we can start a new industrial revolution and bring better schools, better skills and better jobs to Dudley.
Hart Materials is one local manufacturer that is going from strength to strength here in Dudley.
Hart Materials provides raw materials to manufacturers across the UK and beyond, making 50 per cent of its sales abroad and contributing the growth of high-tech industry at home.
Under the leadership of Sedgley businessman and Aston University graduate Dr. Tony Hart, the business has continued to grow and has recently moved to a larger site on Planks Lane in Wombourne where it is in the final stages of developing a new technology centre.
This is a brilliant example of my vision for Dudley’s future – local colleges and universities training the next generation of manufacturers to forge a technology-based revolution that will ultimately bring new, sustainable jobs to Dudley.
People often tell me that politicians in Westminster don’t care what they’ve got to say about immigration, but I know local people think it’s an important issue and politicians should be listening.
That’s why over the last few weeks I’ve held a dozen meetings across Dudley to hear what local people think.
One thing came through loud and clear at every meeting: people want their concerns heard in Westminster and that's something that I'm determined to do.
People who came along to my local meetings often told me they felt that border controls just weren’t strong enough, so I stood up in the House of Commons on Monday to ask the Home Secretary Theresa May if she would strengthen our border force.
Border checks have halved since 2010 and there are no checks at all for 20 million visitors every year. I want tough rules to ensure that people moving here are prepared to work hard, pay their way and uphold British values and we need proper checks if we’re going to enforce this.
The Government has to get a grip on this. We should be counting people in and out, making it easier to deport EU criminals the moment they offend and we have to re-introduce fingerprint checks for illegal immigrants at Calais.
It's my job to go to London and speak up for people in Dudley so I will be taking advantage of every opportunity to raise points made at these meetings in House of Commons debates. I promise that I'll also push for a new immigration bill in the first 12 months of the next government if I’m re-elected, and I will be telling politicians in Westminster exactly what local people said should be in it.