Nadhim Zahawi

The Secretary of State for Education has told businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire that they will be at the heart of the reform of the skills system.

Nadhim Zahawi made the pledge to members of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce at the latest event organised as part of its PolicyHour series.

The MP for Stratford-on-Avon said his Skills Bill, which is currently making its way through the Parliament, was high up on the Government’s list of priorities.

Mr Zahawi said: “We have a very ambitious agenda for skills in my department, as well as in Government, and what we are going to do is to usher in the era of a skills economy where businesses are at the heart of everything we do.

“Through the Skills Bill we are going to see the opportunity for Chambers of Commerce and business representative organisations to help us on this journey because the local skills plans that we are trialling and how we can build those bottom-up plans for a region is an incredibly important element.”

As part of the reform of the skills system, Mr Zahawi said it was important that educators understood and promoted the value of apprenticeships and new T-Level qualifications to learners if businesses were to be provided with an appropriately skilled pipeline of employees for the next generation.

“I also want to see more entrepreneurial ways of businesses engaging with educators,” he said.

“My first visit after taking on this job was to Barnet and Southgate College where they are working with their local authorities and their local Chamber of Commerce to host a business hub, through which all SMEs have to go if they have a question about their business rates or a grant application, and that gives them access to a steady pipeline of businesses that they can better engage with.

“As a result, the college has classrooms full of electricians and scientists because it was through their engagement with businesses that they worked out that as a country we’re going to need many more to carry out the conversion work towards getting to net zero.

“This hub is an excellent example of an entrepreneurial way in which the college is engaging with its business community to provide huge opportunities.”

Sean Rose, head of policy at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s key to the success of our economy that we have an appropriately skilled workforce and the commitment in the Budget of a funding increase of 42 per cent to be spent on increasing skills provision was welcome news.

“With the Skills Bill getting its second reading in the House of Commons only last week, this was a timely opportunity for our members to hear directly from Nadhim Zahawi, who is at the heart of this, and for them to be able to speak directly to him with their views on how and where that money should be spent.”