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West Midlands

Coventry University – Infrastructure Lunch

22 Apr 2018
Coventry University, IoD West Midlands

Coventry University – Infrastructure Lunch

The West Midlands is experiencing unprecedented investment levels in infrastructure projects, with Andy Street recently launching an investment prospectus highlighting 20 different projects with a cost of approximately £10bn. All the projects will carry prosperity into the region and are key drivers for increasing productivity, but what challenges do they bring?

In January, we brought a unique group of business leaders together, from both private and public sector businesses across the spectrum of regional ‘infrastructure’ - road, rail and utilities. Sponsored by Coventry University, we wanted to better understand their needs in relation to building talent and creating a culture of innovation. As a business-facing  University and with access to a broad range of academic expertise, Coventry recognise the critical importance of a dialogue with industry to fully understand skills and innovation needs, with a view to working in partnership to develop and provide solutions.

The session provided an excellent opportunity for cross-sector discussion, with a well-rounded and diverse approach to the issues raised – including multiple examples of best practice that were shared with the group. Unsurprisingly, skills were top of the agenda with a lot of discussion around an ageing workforce, increased levels of automation and an increase in demands for digital skills. Organisations need to constantly adapt and keep up to date with the latest and developing technologies, fostering enterprise, innovation and creativity amongst their employees. Those that are more open to change and are seen as allowing their teams the freedom to explore and experiment to enable innovation will be the ones that are attractive to the future workforce.

Employers that are positively promoting a Growth Mindset approach to creating talent are those that are already talking to a younger audience as well as looking at how they can upskill their existing workforce. Engagement with staff and customers is crucial in understanding the future key ‘disruptors’ to your Industry, which in turn allows employers to collaborate with Universities, Colleges and indeed other businesses to help take advantage of these new technologies.  As an example, the Institute of Coding is a new national initiative designed to address the gaps in digital skills and computer science – responding directly to industry need

A key takeaway was how important it is that the infrastructure sector needs to work more closely together when looking at skills and innovation and remember that it is as much about the people as it is about the hard numbers and technology.

“A fantastic dialogue with key insights and best practice shared together with common issues faced, namely talent and innovation”

Kate Hall, Design Director HS2 Ltd

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West Midlands

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